Uri and after
PAY BACK PAKISTAN WITH INTEREST, BUT NOT IN RUPEES
It has been ten days since the Uri Attacks and much water – and thankfully not blood – has flown down the Indus since then. The Prime Minister made a telling speech in Kozhikode and Sushma Swaraj, arguably one of the most articulate and effective External Affairs Minister India has had in recent times, was nuanced yet firm in her statement at the United Nations General Assembly.
Love him or hate him, if there is one thing politicians can learn from Narendra Modi it is how to chose his own time and place for response without getting bullied into premature reactions. If Manmohan Singh’s silences were called deafening, in contrast Modi’s deferred responses are calibrated for impact.
Discussing war room strategies and counter-terrorism options in television studios may be good for TRP, but that is not where or how the national security agenda is decided. In fact, intelligently used, public debates can be useful decoys for diverting public attention from real work that happens behind closed doors. It also helps in dissipating public angst, jingoistic rants and motivated criticism while the Government gets on with its job.
Only the uninitiated or those motivated to mislead would peddle the thought that the Government is blind to its own lapses and will not be subjecting itself (which includes the military and intelligence establishments) to critical scrutiny after such a major setback. Indeed, there is bound to be a major reappraisal of policy. But, it would be fanciful to expect public consultation on its security and intelligence report card.
Thus after a week more or less everyone realises that declaring ‘war’ with a politically unstable and militarily irresponsible nuclear neighbour cannot be the first course of action. While covert retaliation may be considered, on the surface diplomatic isolation and raising the international ante against the terror credentials of Pakistan are, perhaps, the most pragmatic way forward.
Prime Minister Modi threw the symbolic gauntlet of “war against poverty” to Pakistan at his party’s Kozhikode conclave. Though it may have sounded like glib rhetoric to change the discourse, there was a deeper political thought beneath the Modi’s fervent plea.
By all accounts after a bountiful monsoon and massive infrastructural spends ready on a platter the economy is poised for take off. This is precisely the moment when many detractors within and outside the country will try to derail the Government’s agenda. Frittering away an opportunity of a lifetime that could potentially place India at the high table of world commerce by a military adventure is not a trap that anyone can expect Modi to fall for.
Much is written and talked about India’s over-estimation of its own clout in the global geo-political arena. If we are being taken more seriously than before by the international powers it is largely because of our growing importance in world trade. Who will understand that better than a Gujarati?
Comparisons are drawn with how America’s resident Jewish population influences its policy towards Israel. It will be some time before Indian expatriates start wielding similar sway in the US Congress but that NRI's are a rising force is there for everyone to see. Therefore, it is not without reason that Modi has been wooing them so assiduously since becoming Prime Minister.
War would have been a tempting choice for Modi if he were in the last leg of office. The world over (including in India) military offensive has been used by many leaders with waning popularity or insecure standing to consolidate their position. But Modi should have no such insecurities and, therefore, can stay the course with confidence.
That a reference to Balochistan in the Prime Minister’s Independence Day address could rattle the world, including his opponents at home, goes to show how policies are beginning to make a difference.
Many would try to spoil the party as India inches slowly but surely towards its golden hour. Some would do it deliberately and others (who have little understanding of economics and go around making populist promises of loan waiver within 24 hours of coming to power) naively.
At the end of the day even Kashmiris understand which side of their bread is buttered. That is why it is all the more important not to get distracted from the larger economic and political agenda while biding our time to pay the enemy back with compounded interest but, perhaps, in a different currency — US Dollars or Chinese Yuan, not Indian Rupees.