WHAT India needs to worry about is its own response to the beheadings; the establishment followed a familiar script, going through a predictable game of dumb charade: The nation offered its heartfelt condolences to the soldiers’ families on their bereavement, there was some ‘ghor ninda’ of the faceless executioners, the DGMO declared the Army’s resolve to give Pakistan an unequivocal response at a time and place of its choosing, a message was also put out to the civilian leadership in unambiguous terms that our patience is wearing thin.
Seven months after PM Modi turned on its head the strategic restraint doctrine on cross border terrorism, Pakistani troops took a stroll along the LOC and beheaded two of our soldiers.
Pakistan’s chicanery ought to surprise none, including a section of our defence establishment which was resting on its laurels, smug in the belief that the September surgical strike had indeed changed the dynamics of Pakistan’s policy. In fact, the travesty is that these defence pundits would not tire of putting UPA in the pillory for internalising a policy of surrender and retreat. For them at least, the wheel has turned a full circle.
More than the surgical strike it was PM Modi’s espousal of doctrine of equivalence by drumming the Baloch beat that marked a tactical shift in our policy. This and New Delhi’s assiduous rejection of any kind of bilateral talks until terror takes a back seat.
The beheadings are surely not going to cajole us into rushing to Nawaz Sharif’s doorstep in Islamabad but the barbarism does help turn the international spotlight on Kashmir, reinforcing the Pakistani claim that it is a disputed area. The ‘enlightened’ media in the West, rather than highlighting the barbarism, ironically tends to harp on the absence of a political strategy in Kashmir, more so since both the state and the central governments are under BJP’s control; it tends to incessantly replay the latest skirmishes in the Valley: teenagers taking on the might of the Indian Army. With that, all the wrong inferences and analogies are drawn about the situation, especially the civil dissonance at play; the most odious is the comparison to Palestinian boys and girls and the strife in the Gaza Strip.
The conclusion the diplomatic community tends to draw from this is not that Pakistan is inflicting a thousand cuts but that India does not seem inclined to resolve the Kashmir issue as it is not interested in talking about it.
The political pendulum, too, has swung wildly – from a policy of drift, as was the case under the Congress regimes, to one of sledge hammer – in the vain hope that it will burn out militancy sooner or later.
In Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the prime minister perhaps had someone who could have helped in achieving something close to equilibrium. But with Mufti’s demise the scope for political intervention has narrowed further and there is no one on the horizon who can act as a political band-aid.
By an uncanny coincidence, the body bags have arrived just when Nawaz Sharif was having a spot of trouble with the Pakistan Army, which seems to suggest a concerted attempt in Islamabad to embarrass the civilian leadership and to constrain it to revive the Kashmir rhetoric. The barbarism was also craftily timed to coincide with Turkish PM Erdogan touching base with Indian leaders; in what was perhaps a scripted move Islamabad had already prodded Erdogan into making seemingly off the cuff remarks calling for multilateral talks in Kashmir. So, there is a method in Pak madness and it has a lot to do with their isolation in the diplomatic enclave.
What India needs to worry about is its own response to the beheadings; the establishment followed a familiar script, going through a predictable game of dumb charade: The nation offered its heartfelt condolences to the soldiers’ families on their bereavement, there was some ‘ghor ninda’ of the faceless executioners, the DGMO declared the Army’s resolve to give Pakistan an unequivocal response at a time and place of its choosing, a message was also put out to the civilian leadership in unambiguous terms that our patience is wearing thin. Essentially: blah blah blah. Still more blah and then we took our eyes off the body bags and immersed ourselves in pressing domestic squabbles yet once again.
Déjà Vu – No other words explain so well the nation’s disgust with the recent happenings.
The author is a former editor of The Free Press Journal.