Time to act, but differently
Listening to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kozhikode, I observed that the recent attack on Uri’s army camp by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists has made him finally realise that he has been proved wrong in dealing with Pakistan with the Shawl-Sari diplomacy. Though he forcefully indicated that Pakistan will get a befitting reply to the Uri misdeed, the pain of a ditched man was clearly visible on Modi’s face. Despite having an attacking posture, his body language betrayed his guilt for ignoring advises of the experts in diplomacy, especially viz-a-viz Pakistan, and toeing a line. Modi must have thought that by inviting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his oath-taking ceremony in May 2014, and his consistent gestures such as landing unannounced for Nawaz Sharif's birthday at his door step have the potential of writing a new chapter in Indo-Pak relations.
But Modi now finds himself betrayed. Though these situations and the level of trust cannot be compared, I am sure Modi now has an idea of the agony through which Jawahar Lal Nehru had passed after what he got in return from his journey of “Hindi Chini Bhai-Bhai” sentiments. I am sure our Prime Minister was armed with adequate assessment of the under garb activities of Pakistan when he mentioned Balochistan in his Independence Day speech. It was a clear indication that the honeymooning with Nawaz Sharif has been over months ago and the realities of hard ground are now going to decide India’s response to Pakistan’s games.
No one can deny the gravity of Uri incident. India must respond to Pakistan in the strongest possible way. But the way responsible people such as Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office and a General Secretary of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) who is on deputation from the parent organisation Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) made their statements after Uri attack, was the lowest of immature approach. The Minister said that not responding will be an act of cowardice. The General Secretary wanted the entire jaw for one tooth. Our 24x7 news channels and the “nationalists” across the nation want direct military action against Pakistan and giving abusing titles to those who have better logical opinion and think that war can only be the last option.
I sympathise with Prime Minister Modi as he faces the situation of emotional outburst nationally that has been precipitated by his statements after every such tragedy when the reins of the nation were not in his hands. People of India are not wrong if now they expect Modi to act and implement what he had talked about earlier. When in opposition you add fuel to fire just to get political mileage out of situations that must be tackled more responsibly. You get a taste of your own medicine sometimes. Today he is a victim of the fury the seeds of which he was sowing for years.
Modi is very right that the terror attack in Uri is not something which can be forgotten. India should never forget it. We must reply to such acts. But I have no hitch in saying that Uri-2016 is not Kargil-1999 or the attack on Parliament-2001 or Mumbai-2008. If India as a nation and the governments of the times could restrain when our territorial integrity was directly challenged, the centre of country’s political democracy was under unprecedented threat and the mayhem had left country’s commercial capital in disaster, why can’t we now wait for a response that emerged after perspicacious judgement, deep grasp of politics and comprehensive intelligence?
Modi’s Kozhikode speech makes a clear difference between the people of Pakistan and the rulers of Pakistan. He hopes that a time will come when the people of our neighbouring country will revolt against a system running on the basis of hatred towards India—a system which has ruined the aspirations of common people and only few bigwigs are getting all the advantages. Ridiculing Pakistan’s demand for Kashmir, Modi said, its government cannot take care of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) or Balochistan, which are under its care, and is misleading the world by taking up Kashmir.
I think, the Prime Minister, in his speech, had a strong message to his party hawks clamouring for war. Modi has realised that investment, growth, and waging war just don’t go together. He has followed the path of his predecessors. In 1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999, India chose not to pursue wars to militarily optimal ends, realising the costs of protracted conflict would outweigh the potential gains.
There is no doubt that the time to act decisively has come. But there are options other than direct military conflict with Pakistan. To begin the terror endgame, India has been successful in isolating Pakistan internationally. Pakistan has not received any open support even from its friends after the Uri incident. Most of the nations have come openly against Pakistan’s terror tactics. Nawaz Sharif is roaming around with a tense face. He also understands that his is not a stable country and the governmental powers he enjoys depend on the will of Army and the ISI. Nawaz is no novice who does not realise that the internal security situation in Pakistan is so shaky that to handle unrest in many provinces is not an easy job for him. The strong presence of non-state actors and the Islamist forces who have gained deep roots in one decade have become a cause of serious concern even for the people of Pakistan. Its economy is on the verge of total failure and Pakistani youth see no hope for their future.
In a situation such as this, Nawaz Sharif cannot sustain his political power for a long time. The actions of the army and ISI have brought Pakistan to a stage where a revolt by people is not an impossibility. But romanticising about it in the very future would be another diplomatic blunder.
(The author is Editor and CEO of News Views India. Views expressed are strictly personal.)