How to neuter the demented neighbour?
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tryst with moderation has been extended from its angst over “gaurakshaks” (cow vigilantes) to policies on Pakistan.
Narendra Modi must have now realised the constraints under which his predecessor functioned in the aftermath of 26/11 -- the murder and mayhem which jihadis from the “Ivy League” of terror carried out in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, at the behest of the Pakistan army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
At that time, Manmohan Singh reportedly considered all the options for punishing Pakistan, including activating the Cold Start doctrine of a limited war. But the threat of a limited conflict expanding into a nuclear Armageddon stopped him from any hasty action.
It is the same today when Modi has no alternative but to ignore the hawks in the saffron brotherhood and among the arm-chair warriors, one of whom said on television that India may lose 500 million people in a nuclear war with Pakistan, but 700 million will survive while Pakistan will be wiped out.
The security “expert” recalled Mao Zedong’s infamous observation during the Cold War that enough Chinese will survive a nuclear firestorm to carry on building socialism while capitalism will be exterminated.
Such irrational outbursts after the Uri incident by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and others have again highlighted India’s dilemma in the matter of responding to Pakistan’s provocations considering that options like the generally-preferred aerial attacks on terror camps carry the possibility of unleashing a nuclear war.
Such chances are all the greater because Pakistan’s jihadi mindset is essentially nihilistic which glorifies death in a battle with infidels as the road to paradise.
As a result, Pakistan no longer cares to hide its links with the suicide squads which it sends across the Line of Control (LoC) carrying weapons and food packets with Pakistani markings.
If India presents these as evidence of Pakistani complicity, Islamabad and Rawalpindi simply laugh them off even while calling upon New Delhi to present “actionable intelligence” to prove its charges.
Pakistan even participated in the charade of a visit by one of its teams to the Pathankot air base after it had been targeted by the fidayeens or the suicide bombers trained by the Pakistani Army and the ISI.
Since a gentleman is always at a disadvantage when dealing with a rogue, India will have to devise ways of neutering its demented neighbour at a time when the tortuous relations between the two countries have reached a dead end.
For a start, it is now clear that there cannot be a return to the earlier on-and-off peace negotiations which occasionally held out the promise of a solution as when Manmohan Singh and Pervez Musharraf considered erasing the LoC.
Or when Nawaz Sharif told Modi while hosting him in his Lahore home on December 25, 2015: “Ab yahaan aana jaana laga rehega” (now there will be frequent visits).
It was the killing of Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen “commander” in Kashmir, by the Indian security forces which scotched all the chances of the India-Pakistan relations moving forward.
For Pakistan, the unrest in the Valley after Wani’s death provided an excellent opportunity to fish in troubled waters. But it probably didn’t expect that the heightened tension will persuade India to pay Pakistan back in its own coin by raking up the issues of Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The resultant complications, exacerbated by India’s security lapses in guarding the Uri camp, have ruled out any possibility of the mutual relations becoming normal in the foreseeable future.
Therefore, two incidents - Wani’s killing when the terrorist could have been arrested, and the gaping holes in the security apparatus in Uri -- have inflicted virtually irreparable damage to India-Pakistan relations.
The Pakistani Army may not be too unhappy, however, at this turn of events because it had never favoured normalisation of ties since that would rob the generals and their spymasters in the ISI of their self-allotted role as saviours of the nation.
India will now have to look for ways to get its own back after the Uri tragedy, which has severely dented Modi’s macho image and falsified his pre-election rhetoric.
On the other hand, the Pakistani Army and the ISI are likely to step up their provocations along the LoC, for they may convince themselves that they have India well and truly on the ropes -- unable to hit back militarily even as the fidayeens or the suicide squads carry out their depredations on Indian territory.
It is very much on the cards, therefore, that the Pakistan Army and the ISI -- the so-called Deep State over which the civilian rulers have no control -- will step up their despatch of the jihadi marauders, primed to kill after having been brainwashed with a heavy dose of religious bigotry.
Right-wingers in India are in the habit of pointing out that Israel does not hesitate to hit out at the enemy in similar circumstances. But there is a difference. While Israel’s wrath is vented on the weak and defenceless Palestinians, it could not but watch quietly as Iran built its nuclear potential. India, therefore, has no option but to adopt measures like snapping diplomatic relations, which will entail cutting off trade ties as well, or unilaterally abrogating the Indus waters treaty, or raising its defence budget which a financially weak Pakistan will not be able to match, or firming up India’s military ties with Afghanistan to raise the spectre for Pakistan of a threat from two fronts.
(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are strictly personal.)