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Modi Flexes 56 Inches: CROSSES THE RUBICON, By Poonam I Kaushish, 4 Oct, 2016 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 4 October 2016

Modi Flexes 56 Inches


By Poonam I Kaushish


It was a tumultuous week. On one hand we paid obeisance to the apostle of peace and non-violence Gandhi. On the other Prime Minister Modi radically changed the rules of the game in India’s Pakistan policy post the Uri army base attack. Bluntly, the surgical strikes in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) destroying nine terrorists’ launch pads and killing terrorists marked a huge strategic and tactical shift, accentuating an-eye-for-an-eye, and tooth-for-a tooth plot. It takes two play hard ball!


Undoubtedly this measure was long overdue and round one has gone to Modi. Both domestically and internationally. Faced with a belligerent national mood encapsulated by BJP senior leader and Kashmir interlocutor Ram Madhav’s “For one tooth, the complete jaw,” coupled with social media awash with parodies on Modi’s 56-inch chhatti and 2014 muscular election speeches, the Prime Minister was left with no space to maneouvere.


In one fell stroke, even as Modi showcased that New Delhi had changed its mind about the risks of confronting Pakistan, he simultaneously indicated that he is no trigger-happy country yokel but a seasoned politician will aware of the omni-present nuclear threat. Towards that end his Government would continue treading with care when it comes to its Pakistan dealings.


Already he has turned on the diplomatic pressure tap on Islamabad, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj sought global help to dub Pakistan as a “terror state” and dubbed Pakistan “the Ivy League of terrorism” while emphasizing that (terrorism linked to) Pakistan is a challenge not just for India but also the rest of the world.


There is talk of rescinding the Indus Water Treaty Pact, waters are being rippled in the Arabian Sea, Pakistan’s Gateway to the east with the Indian Navy carrying out fleet exercises on the Gujarat Coast, plans to make Indian skis a no-fly zone for Pakistan Airlines, there is furious drum beating of Islamabad’s brutality in Baluchistan culminating in the Prime Minister challenging his counterpart to a different war, “If you have the strength, come forward to fight against poverty…let’s see who wins Pakistan or India.”


Underscoring this paradigm shift in its Pak policy, New Delhi made plain that past precedents were not binding on it in its dealing with recalcitrant Islamabad and its terrorists’ army. This was communicated to over 25 countries. Modi’s success internationally can be gauged by the firm US backing to the strikes, no condemnation along-with neighbours withdrawing from the forthcoming SAARC conference in Islamabad thereby isolating it. Undeniably, his extensive foreign tours had paid off.


After two and a half years of following the conventional beaten track of policy vis-à-vis Pakistan for, Uri made Modi realize that one could not preserve peace by exuding goodwill. This was not only silly and dangerous. But also tempts the aggressor. Thus, New Delhi highlighted two points: One, the attack was in PoK not Pakistan, two, it was a strike to annihilate the non-State terrorists and not a war against the Pakistani Army.


True, there have been surgical strikes in the past but they have been kept under wraps. Primarily because the limited aims and slow tempo of such campaigns allows both sides time for diplomatic gestures and stock-taking in the hope that some day their paths would converge on smoking the peace pipe.


South Block knows only too well a war with Pakistan would cast a shadow over India’s growing economy—it’s the fastest-growing big economy in the world—as well as raising international alarm. Holding out threat of a nuclear threat is more of a deterrent as it a well established norm that since Hiroshima in 1945 technology in a unipolar world talk of nuclear war is baloney. Hence the plan to escalate this diplomatically and politically.


Pakistan has got caught between a rock and hard place. Obviously, it had no option but to deny the surgical strikes within its territory. Any admittance would tantamount to hara-kiri as it would be forced to retaliate. Also it would be construed as confession that it was actively harbouring and promoting terrorists, consequently it has been forced to distance itself from its illegitimate children. Hence the killing of its two soldiers has been ascribed to cross border firing on the LoC.


Yet, India can not let its guard down given that a hurt Islamabad might be licking its wounds but is readying to fight another day. In fact the Pak armed forces have already sharpened their knives. History tells us that after every Indian attack, Pakistan retaliates and how. Post Agra, there was Kargil, followed by Kandhar, Mumbai 26/11, hanging of Afzal Guru and Kasab led to Pathankot and Uri.


Besides, in Pakistan democracy is merely a soothing platitude. The military holds the strings with a puppet Prime Minister. The nation psyche is military fed on a staple anti-India tirade since 1947. Make no mistake when it comes to India the army, ISI, politicians and civil society beyond its Lollywood and Coke studio hi society have the same view.


What next? New Delhi new assertiveness would need all the wisdom and restraint to ensure that it remains in control of the Indo-Pak script.  One way is to adopt the Israeli Defence Forces strategy in which the aim is to cause the opponent more damage (quantitatively and qualitatively) than the opponent caused Israel in the same time span. The fear of punitive retaliation would, it was hoped, delay the next conflict and restrain the enemy's ambitions.


For the success of this new strategy of “limited” war one needs national will more than readiness to use military power. War is an option every nation prepares. This entails a clear view of where the dangers lie, and of what kinds of responses are necessary to meet those dangers. It includes also a basic, crystalline faith that India is on the right path and that Kashmir is worth defending.


Certainly, in this zero sum game the muscle-flexing, war rhetoric and one-upmanship will continue till there the core issue of Kashmir is resolved. In the ultimate, New Delhi cannot wish away Pakistan and nor can Islamabad bully India in to being a passive bystander.


Our leaders must understand the nature of the threat they face and adopt a strategy that is more in tune with the demands of the situation. Foreign and military policy and strategic plans are not a one-shot affair but requires long-drawn cohesive planning, calibrated force and diplomacy. The worrying possibility of a military flare-up hasn’t disappeared unless terrorism completely and miraculously disappears. Till then Modi cannot give up on that option.


He knows only too well staying ahead is the name of the game. The nation which survives is the one that rises to meet the moment, which has the wisdom to recognize the threat and the will to turn it back, and does so before it is too late. Modi has made plain: Let not any one kick India around with tall talk of bleeding India with a thousand cuts! Will Pakistan heed? ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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