ISLAMABAD - SALMAN MASOOD - A cross-border raid by Indian forces inside Myanmar and a subsequent remark by the Indian minister of state Rajyavardhan Rathore that the raid by special forces against militants inside Myanmar was a message to Pakistan has ostensibly raised the diplomatic temperature between the two estranged neighbours. Wednesday saw a flurry of statements from the Pakistani side as Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif and federal cabinet ministers warned India against any incursion across the eastern border.

A meeting of the Pakistani military’s formation commanders vowed to “defend the territorial integrity of Pakistan at any cost with a befitting response to any misadventure.”

Tensions had already been building up since Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Bangladesh where Mr Narendra Modi’s statements resulted in roiling up sentiments in Pakistan. Mr Modi had accused Pakistan of creating “nuisance” and “constantly” troubling India by promoting terrorism. Indian Prime Minister gladly holding, alongside Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, a photographer of Pakistani military commanders signing the surrender agreement had also evoked sombre and angry emotions back here.

The increasingly bellicose rhetoric emanating from the Indian side is aimed at putting pressure on Pakistan and reminiscent of Indian posture immediately after the 1998 nuclear tests, defence analysts say. “This time, these statements are the result of India’s increasing clout and influence in the international system, primarily derived from its economic growth and immense potential for international investors,” said Mansoor Ahmed, an Islamabad-based analyst.

“It translates into more jobs and profits for Western supplier states, both in civil nuclear technology and high-tech conventional military hardware, such as fighter jets, submarines, artillery and associated systems.”

India has already earned the distinction of being the world’s biggest arms importer in recent years. The exponential growth potential of India has provided it with political and diplomatic clout with the United States as now the US is relying to share responsibilities in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, primarily aimed at meeting the eventual Chinese threat.

“The emerging power imbalance and conventional and strategic asymmetries in South Asia will exacerbate in the next decade, when India’s conventional military modernisation, including that of its navy and air force, along with space and nuclear triad is likely to be completed,” Mr Ahmed said.

Diplomatic leverage and the balance of power will then invariably tilt towards the Indians who would want to capitalise on the changed dynamics. As India bolsters its military capabilities, the fact that Mr Modi, who is still tainted by the Gujarat massacre of Muslims, is at the helm of affairs adds a new dimension to equation. Mr Modi has not been shy of expressing his ambition of absolute Indian domination and Bharatiya Janata Party’s belligerent and hawkish tendencies are only going to be further cemented in the future. Indian military, meanwhile, has also embarked on achieving decisive military advantages for pro-active military operations.

In its quest for power projection military capabilities, such as aircraft carriers, nuclear powered ballistic missile capable submarines and missile defence systems, India’s political and military leadership, however, will not engage in an immediate showdown with Pakistan, analysts say. “It would jeopardise international investment and the pace of economic growth, which is the currency of power that is being employed to gain leverage in the international system,” Mr Ahmed said.

But Indian leadership will continue to test Pakistan’s resolve to defend itself and keep gauging the international reaction for any cross-border surgical strikes. Indian leadership might hope that the international community might show tolerance for cross-border anti-terror raids, especially at a time when pressure on Pakistan has piled up to cleanse its territory of militants.

The challenge for Pakistan, in the long term, is to respond to these threats and the changing geo-political dynamics of South Asia. Its leadership will have to withstand coercive rhetoric and aggressive diplomacy while at the same time taking steps to put up an effective bulwark against any foreign aggression. In the short term, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will come under pressure over its foreign policy initiative towards India. After assuming power, Prime Minister Sharif had hoped to increase trade ties with India and normalise the bilateral relations. But the increasing sense of hostility from the Indian side has not helped Mr Sharif’s desire for peace. In recent months, Pakistani security establishment has repeatedly accused India of meddling inside Balochistan. Army Chief Gen Sharif has also spoken about resolving the perennial Kashmir dispute in accordance with the United Nations resolutions.

Contrary to the sense of optimism when both Mr Modi and Mr Sharif took power amid hopes for a fresh start between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, the events of past few weeks indicate that relations between Pakistan and India have come full circle.