Pakistan does not want to go to war with India . This has been the message of Prime Minister Imran Khan since he was handed the reins of power following his electoral victory last year. His offer to return the captured Indian pilot , who was shot down over Pakistani territory during the recent clashes in Kashmir , reflects this desire. But the gesture should not be viewed as a sign of weakness. Pakistan genuinely desires peace and, though it citizens have been told to prepare for open conflict, it will not be Islamabad that makes the first move. If India continues to violate the country’s airspace – as it did when it sent its air force to destroy the facilities it believed had been used by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group, which claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack on February 14 that took the lives of more than 40 Indian soldiers – then Pakistan will be forced to retaliate. Don’t be fooled. The India-Pakistan crisis has only just begun What form would such retaliation take? This is where tactical nuclear weapons enter the picture. On two earlier occasions, Pakistan has sent clear signals to India that because it is no longer able to match its strength on the ground and in the air, the use of nuclear weapons has become the only option in the event of war. Tactical nuclear weapons can be launched via short-range missiles of the type that Pakistan has developed, presumably with assistance from China – one of its closest allies and largest financial backers . But Pakistan does not want this. Its youthful population of 210 million, whose median age was 24 at the last census in 2017, want peace so that the government can provide education , health care and well-paying jobs . This is why they voted for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreeke Insaf party in July . Surveys show that while the public respects the military and does not want to reduce its much-needed resources, they also want the quality of governance in the country to improve. This can only happen if peace is obtained throughout Pakistan’s neighbourhood. India-Pakistan crisis: Modi is gambling with nuclear stakes The young man who drove an explosive-laden vehicle into a convoy of buses that was carrying Indian paramilitary personnel on February 14 had joined JeM after being injured in an operation led by Indian security forces . But that did not prevent Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi from blaming Pakistan for the attack. His supporters wanted action and Modi, facing an election later in the year, promised that Pakistan would be made to pay for what he called a “brutal act”. He was wise not to send in ground forces. Instead, he sent warplanes – two of which were brought down on Wednesday, one in Pakistani territory. It was on this same day that Khan spoke on television, directing his speech more at India than the domestic audience. He asked whether, since both countries possessed nuclear weapons, it would be wise to allow the brewing conflict to escalate. As a gesture of goodwill, he indicated that he would be sending the captured pilot back to India – although under the laws of war he could be tried for entering Pakistani air space. For China, 62 billion reasons to be cautious in India-Pakistan crisis In the days since Indian jets first crossed over into Pakistani territory on Tuesday, heavy shelling from either side of the Line of Control that divides the disputed Kashmir region has caused civilians in both countries to flee their homes. But Pakistan’s desire for peace is very real. It is this strong desire that has resulted in the Pakistani military being able to carry out successful operations against extremist organisations, such as Operation Zarb-e-Azb in 2014 that aimed to flush our foreign and local militants hiding near the border with Afghanistan , and the subsequent Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad launched in 2017 that looked to consolidate the earlier operation’s gains. Once the current tensions ease, Islamabad is likely to try and remove JeM from the country’s soil. Pakistan has demonstrated its goodwill towards India through preferential policies, including the easing of visa restrictions for the Sikh community so that its members can visit their shrines in Pakistan. Khan’s government has even proposed building a corridor that would allow Sikhs visa-free travel to Kartarpur, where one of their holiest shrines is located. What took Pakistan, India to brink of war? Islamabad is also interested in increasing the flow of trade between the two countries. As Khan said in his televised address, he understands that a lot of what Modi’s government has done since February 14 is designed to ensure that it does not lose support of hardline Hindus before this year’s elections . Ultimately, the conflict has served to alert the world to the danger in South Asia . Pressure is now building on both countries to contain the crisis. This should have a positive impact, but the ball is now in India’s court. Shahid Javed Burki, Pakistan’s former Finance Minister and Vice-President of the World Bank, is currently Chairman of the Shahid Javed Burki Institute of Public Policy in Lahore.