After the surgical strikesIndia should talk to Nepal and other Saarc members for a ‘Saarc minus Pakistan’
In India, identities of various sorts still rule the course of political action and outcome. India is presently at a stage where the expectations of the electorate are quite diverse. But still we see Narendra Modi seeking to make his party, his government in Gujarat and, in his imagination, the country, an overt extension of his personality. It was the same mistake that Indira Gandhi had committed almost four decades ago, making the Congress Party her territory. For a party that had been shaped by a standard democrat like Nehru, and still carrying some notional attributes of the anti-colonial movement, this proved a major setback.
While India is now being taken as a ‘bully’ in the region, the situation on home turf is anything but normal under a government run by the ‘whims and fancies’ of Narendra Modi, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Pracharak turned politician. The biggest worry is the near collapse of the domestic media before the ruling regime which has no regard for strategic thinking or dissent. As liberal space is shrinking worldwide, India is a formidable catcher of the trend that brought Donald Trump to the helm in the US. The scam-like rise and rise of Modi since 2014 has badly altered the balance of India’s democracy. In these new times, there is scant regard for independent thinking.
A zone of permanent hatred
Of course, a country must counter any bid that dares to belittle its territorial integrity and collective morale. There can’t be two views about that. India is acting within its right by neutralising state-sponsored terror from Pakistan. The point is that while strategic and combative options are exercised, Indians must not be made hostage to idiotic prime-time dictates. They are trying to make South Asia a zone of permanent conflict and hatred. Second, India must not internationalise the Kashmir issue beyond a certain point as it has a history of suffering with similar experiments in the past.
As the toughest and most sustainable measure to ‘let the world know what Pakistan is’, India should negotiate with Nepal and other members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) for a ‘Saarc minus Pakistan model’ for now. A large section of the people in the region support this option.
Meanwhile, India should interpret the ‘surgical strikes’ as an attack on terror camps in Pakistani-Occupied Kashmir (POK), not something to be called ‘war’. This is because a new super assertive breed known as ‘neo-Indians’ don’t mind consuming ‘PR-led coverage’ of surgical strikes from insight-starved TV newsrooms. One can have pride in the nation’s soldiers and, at the same time, is very much free not to subscribe to the obscene narratives of self-serving ‘neo-Indians’ who are hell-bent on seeing everything on the idiot box. It is shameful to treat border issues in the casual setting of ‘live, camera, action’. Not all events at the border should be offered for visualisation and commercial gain.
For the Pakistani ruling elite, ‘Kashmir in turmoil’ gives them an existential edge. A state that suffers from terror and fundamentalism, Pakistan has no other front like Kashmir to involve India in its structured design of hostility. Any future diplomatic move by India should be directed in a manner where it would simply not be viable for Pakistan to skip other issues of engagement for Kashmir. India is the oldest surviving victim of terror, and it lives with the consistent urgency of coping with the dangerous design of terror networks apparently supported by Pakistan, its home-grown terrorists and rogue foreign hands. India, being the world’s largest democracy and a formidable power in South Asia, has to be mindful about its strategic positioning and its commitment to defend the finer South Asian spirit.
For sure, India’s strikes in POK have surprised Pakistan, which was not really serious about the former’s response in the wake of the Uri attack. Since time immemorial, India’s northwest frontier has been a zone of turbulence. Focus should be maintained on this region besides recalibrating India’s response systems along other borders with Pakistan. Also, as India has been a target of cross-border proxy wars, the borders with Nepal and Bangladesh should be monitored much more actively. An overhaul in border management will enhance India’s strategic preparedness. Of course, other measures will add significant value to this. While India should work calmly to carry its agenda forward, screaming warmongers should take a sabbatical. Too much noise is too painful; Indians should realise the greatness of their land and let strategies do the talking.
Thakur is a New Delhi-based journalist and writer