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Restraint

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have publicly addressed last week’s Uri attacks on three separate occasions. At the Bharatiya Janata Party event in Kerala, Modi made it clear that war is not on his agenda. He sought to single out Pakistan as the source of terror in South Asia and called on its people to recognise how this policy was hurting them. "I would like to speak to the people of Pakistan, to tell you that your leaders are misleading you by talking of Kashmir," Modi said. "Both our countries got freedom in the same year. You should ask why is India known the world over for exporting software, while Pakistan is known to export terror?" 

He stated that his strategic goal is an India “free from poverty, full of prosperity”. In addressing the people of Pakistan, Modi made an important distinction between the Pakistani establishment and the people. It is a distinction often made by peaceniks, not hawks. The core idea behind this strategy is to develop pro-India constituencies of peace against an unelected Pakistan army, which formulates the nation’s defence and foreign policy. Managing public opinion in favour of a conflict in Kashmir is an obsession that the Pakistan army continues to harbour. Modi has also sought to change the narrative from the need to “avenge Uri” to “we have already been winning the war”. 

These assertions were based on the idea that Uri was an aberration and that Indian security forces have taken out a lot more terrorists. The security failure of Uri has been placed in the context of larger successes in foiling infiltration bids and terror attacks. Modi said that 17 potential terrorist attacks have been foiled in the past few months, leaving 110 terrorists dead.

In the larger scheme of things, the Prime Minister said that India was already winning the war for prosperity. India is a rising economic power, while Pakistan is mired in a terrorism mess of its own making, he said. On his fortnightly Mann ki Baat radio address, he asserted that the culprits of the Uri attack will not go unpunished. Addressing the people of Kashmir, the Prime Minister also said that they have started to recognise elements who oppose India. 

Finally, the Modi government spoke through External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who delivered a speech at the United Nations General Assembly. On all three occasions, India has steered clear from any talk of war and conflict escalation and simply focused on calling out Pakistan for its role in fomenting terror in the region. “In our midst, there are nations that still speak the language of terrorism, that nurture it, peddle it and export it," Swaraj said at the UNGA. "To shelter terrorists has become their calling card. We must identify these nations and hold them to account." In other words, less than a week after the Prime Minister’s point man in Jammu and Kashmir called on the Indian military to claim “for a tooth the entire jaw”, Modi has gone back to the drawing board and sought a return to New Delhi’s original security policy of strategic restraint.

During her UN address, Swaraj questioned Islamabad’s human rights record in Balochistan, a response to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif comments about India’s conduct in Kashmir. There have been accusations of mass disappearances and extra-judicial killings against the Pakistani forces. "People living in glass house shouldn't throw stones at others. Those accusing others of human rights violations would do well to introspect and see what egregious abuses they are perpetrating in their own country including in Balochistan. The brutality against the Baloch people represents the worst form of state oppression," she said. 

The Baloch unequivocally desire freedom from Pakistan. She also asserted that Kashmir is an integral part of India and insisted that India had approached Pakistan without any conditions over the last few years. In return, India was subject to terror attacks in Pathankot and Uri, she said. This is indeed a sharp response to Pakistan. Will it work? It’s hard to tell. But it's definitely better than conflict escalation and outright war. 
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