Waging a war is not a democratic decision but a strategic option. The terrorist attack and the consequent escalation in conflict could not have come at a worse time. There is too much at stake, in the upcoming election. The political one-upmanship theatre that was being played out, just got significantly murkier post Pulwama attack. It is not easy for a government when it is under seize of public patriotic jingoism and an opposition sniffing at the door to blow it up. ‘Need to show of having acted’ becomes more paramount to quench public thirst and put a lid on the opposition than acting in the best interest of the nation. Talking peace will construe as showing weakness while continuous cross border adventures can have dangerous unintended consequence. Walking such a tight rope is not everyone’s cup of tea and limits the alternatives that the incumbent government may have.
Bad for nation but good for nationalists! Why? Just look at narratives. 2 days back, Pakistan “IAF intruded our territory, PAF forced them to retreat”. Yesterday, India “PAF intruded our territory, IAF forced them to retreat”. The challenge is that they now have one IAF person under custody which significantly changes the narrative. That was easily evident from the fact that GoI kept denying it till very late, then reported him missing and ultimately admitted to his capture late evening. It was a mood dampener for public, a blow to our country’s strategic options, blow for IAF and precarious days ahead for IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan’s family. Notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan is more than happy to strut him in public to satiate their public who were claiming blood post India’s aerial surgical strike. The media is already trying to make him a hero to feed general sentiment but understand the fact, that he become a hero the day he joined IAF. Today’s frenzy will only complicate matter for him and his release!
Finding the truth behind the rhetoric is tough. While Pak claims that IAF aerial strikes only lighted up a few trees and created a small forest fire, India claims to have eliminated 300 terrorists. India initially claimed to have brought down an F16 (& no damage to IAF planes), Pak claimed to have downed 2 IAF planes and captured 2 pilots. Truth, as always, seems to be somewhere in-between. By end of day, we realized that indeed a F16 was downed, indeed 1 IAF plane was downed and indeed 1 IAF pilot was captured.
With opposition baying blood at an election time, we are finding difficult to even stand as a nation when we need to do so badly. Now, what should the government do under such circumstances? Perhaps the best option is to keep the rhetoric up, feed a few incidents of terrorist being gunned down while activating the Track 2 diplomacy to defuse the escalation. In a longer timeframe, the Government needs to come up with a robust strategy for Kashmir. Decades have gone by, multiple governments have come & gone, but Kashmir issue has been vexing us. Lack of political will, political compulsion, short term votes-oriented policies and vested interests have its own share of blame. A few questions come up:
- Why did we not resolve that once for all when India defeated Pakistan during Bangladesh war?
- The person (Adil Ahmad Dhar) who drove the rigged car & rammed the Pulwama convoy was an Indian, born in J&K. Yes, he may have been influenced and radicalized by JeM or nefarious elements across the border but that doesn’t absolve us from the fact that we failed to prevent it. There are many other young Kashmiri’s falling prey for the same. Why? What steps have our country taken to prevent the same? Army is not a panacea, development, education, economic upliftment and a caring touch can arrest a lot of these.
Unfortunately, today the general sense of patriotism is being narrowed to ‘attack Pakistan’, fueled by social and media frenzy. Those who are jumping at it, probably would be the first to scurry for cover if a war really happens. War will kill lot of innocent people at both sides, drag the countries development/ economy by decades and a scar that will very difficult to heal. It is easy to comment on FB/Tweeter while relaxing at home or a TV anchor shouting at top volume sitting in an AC van! Most of us are of the belief that India will win hands down and hence such a noise but that’s easier said than done now. It would be foolish to believe that our neighborhood would just stand & watch when things unfold! Where in this modern world, have we seen issues have been resolved and peace achieved through war? Afghanistan, Iraq…sounds a bell?
At this point, many will be baying for the blood of ‘yours truly’. Coward, weak, anti-national etc.…many would be wondering what my religion is, which state I belong and so on. Coloring every opinion by tagging him/ her to his religion/ caste/ provenance is the biggest curse that modern day India has. To me, patriotism means doing what I can do best for my country. That would include, doing in my limited way to alleviate poverty, attack corruption (don’t take bribe and don’t give bribe), keep our surrounding clean and do all other staff that one’s role & economic position allows to benefit the nation and its people. And yes, if you are a solider, you go & fight for the country!
Many would be wondering ‘OK…enough English! what’s your point…right?’. My point is very simple ‘War is not an option’. My other point is that as common public we should stop clamoring for blood and rather let the Government take the decision that is best for the nation. My last point is an advice to the political system/ government is to keep interest of the nation at the top priority and not the interest of the election!
That does not mean that I am saying the surgical strikes were wrong & so on. Nope, we need to show what we can do, and others should not treat ‘restraint as weakness’ but the future course of action needs lot of pragmatism and a very deep introspection on whether we have failed Kashmir or Indians in Kashmir! It is better late than never. The interest of the nation would best lie in securing itself better from within and evolve a holistic strategy that helps bring Kashmir to mainstream.
I will end though with one doubt that I always have. Do we want to really resolve issues and bring in peace? Be it Kashmir or be it Ayodha? Irrespective of the political color we wear, political parties will be better placed with issues which can help them in influencing the masses and align votes. Remember it is easier to realign masses on the lines of ‘ism’ i.e. ‘your religion-‘ism; patriotism, casteism rather than more serious issues around poverty, health etc.
Source for Images:
Featured image made from combining ‘Dove’ from thespruce.com, ‘hawk’ from allaboutbirds.org. If any of the websites has any issue of image being used, pls. let us know, we will take that out.