India, Pakistan need to restrain

India, Pakistan need to restrain

Rajeev Sharma
The India-Pakistan bonhomie that had started 27 months ago when Narendra Modi was sworn in as India’s prime minister has completely evaporated. Instead, the saree-and-shawl diplomacy that had initially characterised the two nuclear armed neighbors has now given way to an out and out enmity.
India and Pakistan are yet again at loggerheads, this time over the Sept. 18 terror attack on Indian Army camp in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, just four kilometers from the Line of Control or LoC that serves as a defacto boundary between the two South Asian neighbors.
The Uri attack has exposed the Modi government on several counts — intelligence failure, lack of military preparedness of army units deployed close to the border and utter neglect of standard operating procedures, to name a few. Evidently, the Indian Army has learnt precious little after the last high profile terror attack on the Pathankot air base in January this year which lasted four days.
Arguably, the Uri attack is the biggest and the boldest terror attack on Indian Army targets in 14 years since the Kaluchak massacre in the restive Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. In many ways the Uri attack was worse than the terror attack at the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot in the sense that the perpetrators chose to take on an Indian army unit in forward areas and hit it in its very home.
Since the Uri attack, the Modi government has been seething with anger and trying its hardest to hammer out a response. But the response is not so easy.
First of all, it is a terror attack and India has to prove to the international community that it was choreographed by the Pakistani state, an allegation that India has made against Pakistan and Islamabad has rubbished the charge. The Pakistani case is that India has been maligning Pakistan for no rhyme or reason.
Secondly, by responding militarily to the Uri attack India will be playing in the hands of terrorists who have been trying for decades to trigger a war between India and Pakistan by launching high profile terror attacks against India.
From the perspective of the Modi government, it has to act and more importantly be seen as acting. Ironically, Modi is a prisoner of his own hawkish image, which he consciously cultivated as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate in the run up to the April-May 2014 general elections. He repeatedly made fiery speeches at his public rallies hauling the then Manmohan Singh government over coals for its allegedly spineless handling of Pakistan, and even China.
It’s a pity that the leadership of both India and Pakistan has made highly provocative statements post Uri attack and the two countries’ irresponsible media outlets have further added fuel to the fire.
BJP’s Ram Madhav made an incendiary remark that the time of “strategic restraint” was over and advocated the policy of “For one tooth, the complete jaw.” Nobody from the Modi government or the ruling BJP has countered or clarified Madhav’s remark.
The Indian Army too made a rare statement in wake of the Uri attack. Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh sent a clear warning to Pakistan in a strongly-worded statement and said “We reserve the right to respond to any act of the adversary at a time and place of own choosing.” It’s a pregnant statement which indicates that the Indian military would be responding in foreseeable future.
However, nobody knows what Indian response will be like and when. But one thing is clear. India and Pakistan are back to the 2001-02 situation when a military conflict loomed large. Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja M. Asif has contributed his own share to the vitriolic war of words by threatening to use nukes if Pakistan’s security is threatened.
PM Modi finds himself in a Catch-22 situation. He is not unaware that if Indian troops were to cross the borders even for “limited, surgical strikes” it may well trigger a full scale war. He had castigated the Manmohan Singh government for inaction even after extreme acts of provocation by way of high-decibel terror attacks.
Chickens are coming home to roost. Now Modi himself is being accused of similar “inaction” with every passing day since the Uri attack. The opposition Congress party has reminded Modi of his own strong words vis a vis Pakistan and mocked his government for lacking strategic sense and tactical understanding.
One only hopes that the government exercises utmost restraint and does not form its foreign and military policies in a knee jerk reaction to terror attacks and terrorists’ evil designs or jingoistic bravado by ruling party’s leaders or mocking remarks of the opposition.
As for Pakistan, the civil and military leadership of Pakistan won’t be covering themselves with glory by making incendiary remarks in this volatile situation and will do well to exercise restraint in the larger interest of global peace.
Both sides must understand that wars are no solution. They must realize that their nuclear weapon status puts all the more responsibility on them.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view