By Prof SN Misra
I used to wonder, why are the defence forces are not allowed to cross the LOC, when we have definitive information of the terror camps on the other side and respond decisively when Pakistan sponsored terrorism is bleeding us through thousand cuts.
This is, when I recalled, what Churchill said “War is too serious a business to be left to the generals”. There is trenchant bitterness amongst the services that, the political dispensation over the years have not allowed them to teach Pakistan a lesson. Be it Lal Bahadur Shastri at Tashkent or Mrs Indira Gandhi at Shimla or Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee after the Kargil, they have not allowed the defence services to reap the full benefits of their military might, after making deep inroads into the enemy territory. Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee had specifically instructed the service chiefs not to cross the line of control.
Mr Modi is a different kettle of fish and he is turning history on its heads. The early hour strikes have possibly destroyed some of the training camps at Balakot. The Foreign Secretary in his briefing has not put any number on the casualty, largely because the haze that emanated from the laser-guided bombs shrouded clarity. The infrared cameras would give us a confirmation on the number of casualty in a few days.
Interestingly, the Balakot township was destroyed by an earthquake in 2005. The local residents told BBC Hindi services that they were woken by a loud thud at 3 am., and thought it was a repeat of the earthquake. They saw 4-5 crates across, with a few houses destroyed. Quite clearly, the Mirage fighters have done an effective pre-emptive strike, beyond the POK territory.
The Foreign Secretary has mentioned this was a case of ‘non-military’ pre-emptive action on the terror camp run by Masood Azhar’s brother-in-law Yousuf Azhar. To term the strike as ‘non-military’ sounds hollow, and India need not be so diplomatic about it. A tweet is circulating that ‘Josh is high and Jaish is dead’. This is a premature epitaph, as the likes of Dawood Ibrahim are still loitering freely breaking bread with the likes of Javed Miandad.
The entire episode has to be seen from a historical perspective; so that a long term solution to Indo-Pak imbroglio can be inked. The Indo-Pak relationship had its strategic nexus with the two superpowers, USA and the Soviet Union. The Indo-US relationship, which was lukewarm until 1999 took a ‘U’ turn with India buying the ‘Gun Locating Radar’ from the USA after the Kargil war. This has helped India to locate the enemy posts and movements better. The nuclear deal in 2009 and the subsequent bonhomie through a slew of big-ticket acquisitions have further cemented it. On the other hand, the relationship with the Soviet Union has soured, after its apogee in 1971, with Indo-Soviet strategic friendship after the Indo-Pak war (1971). USSR vetoed a resolution moved against India in the UNO after the 1971 war. The US administration, on the other hand, has come out of its halcyon military partnership with Pakistan. The operation against Osama bin Laden, whose camp was close to Military Academy of Pakistan, could not have embittered USA anymore. The US also finds that Pakistan economically enfeebled, while India is a rising economic power and an attractive destination for its merchandise. The only durable allay of Pakistan seems to be China. Mr Imran Khan in his inaugural address as the Prime Minister alluded to his special relationship with China while underscores the frayed relationship that they have with the USA.
To the credit of Mr Imran Khan it must be said, that he has been taking a series of initiatives to revive the Pakistan economy by availing of $20 billion packages from Saudi Arabia. The IMF is willing to give a bailout package. The US depends on Pakistan for containing the backlash of Taliban’s from across the Afghanistan. The ‘One Road One Belt’ initiative of China has Russia and Pakistan as major partners. The oil-gas linkage between Russia and China has become an important template for their long term energy security. In other words China, Russia and Pakistan seem to have built a triangular economic and strategic bridge; with Saudi Arabia as a willing ally.
Surprisingly most of the retired Generals like General Ved Prakash Malik, Lt. General Syed Ata Hasnain, who was corps commander at Kashmir had strongly advised India to desist from any military offensive against Pakistan. They were apprehensive that the backlash could be humungous. There were rumours that killer drones from Israel would be used to demolish the terror camps in POK. While the relationship between India and Israel upbeat, India has to factor in a possible backlash from Pakistan, keeping in view their nuclear capability and military pact with China.
There is a perception that the present strike is a tactical one and does not address India’s long term strategic interests. There is an element of truth to it. Its time, we revisit the contours of Shimla agreement and make LOC a permanent border between India and Pakistan, as has been suggested a number of times in the past. Besides, India can ill afford to consider every Kashmiris as an anti-national and hope to subjugate them militarily. The political process in Kashmir has to be revived so that a popularly elected government takes charge. The present construct of fomenting Hindu nationalism for short term electoral gains must be abdicated. India’s long term advantage of being a secular and fraternal with people of Kashmir must not be lost sight of.
This is quite clearly Mr Modi’s finest political hour; as it is for most Indians, who often felt despondent about India’s indecisive leadership. But he as a batsman has now to contend with a wily bowler in Imran Kahn, who has an ally in China. Churchill won the 2nd World War for England but lost the elections. Public memory can be fickle and historical parallels can often be unnerving. Instead of playing a deeply divisive jingoistic card, it would be statesman like, if the process of dialogue can be revived between India and Pakistan. The diplomatic dialogue between India and Pakistan has often been characterised as the dialogue of the deaf. There is a need to look at our long term strategic relationship, instead of whipping war cries which can be catastrophic.
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The author teaches Economics. E.email@example.com, Ph-91-7381109899
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