Monday, January 14, 2013

Give the Pakistanis a bloody eye….not a mouthful

It looks like everyone in India is into full scale war mongering. At the same time, all of them end up by saying that neither is war the solution, nor is it imminent. But if anyone has any doubts about how wars start, they should go back and research the verbal dogfights that typically take place before any war starts. War mongering leads to war. If war is not our intention and only teaching Pakistan an appropriate lesson is, then we should go about the job silently. Coming on TV and issuing public threats is unbecoming of the proud and brave army and our strong nation.

General Bikram Singh himself made some media statements yesterday, urging his troops to respond in a measured and effective way. Very good….but isn’t this best stated in an internal memo to his commanders? He also urged his seniors to be aggressive; not passive. Very good and that’s exactly how the Indian army should respond. My concern is that the Indian army chief should be staying behind a shroud of deathly silence….something that fills the opposite party with fear….not be talking to the Indian public directly over media. He has a job to do and nothing – including the media outrage against the beheading of our soldiers – should distract him from that.

Because once General Singh gets embroiled in media relations, he will face the same pressure as our politicians face when discussing sensitive subjects like these – to be jingoistic. General Singh is reported to have accused Pakistan of outright lies. Now we know our neighbor very well. They will do what they have to do to foment trouble for India in any sphere possible. But the response that it should draw from our army establishment is a sharp counter-attack; strong enough to rattle the Pakistani warlords; yet measured enough not to escalate the matter. The response must be firm; so that the counter party thinks ten times before mounting another veiled attack. The problem with media statements is that they don’t have any real sting. The TV anchor – and maybe the people at large – feel happy to hear them, but that hardly provides the solution we seek – a stoppage of the Pakistani adventurism.

In contrast, the Israeli army would have punched right back, without making so much media noise. They would have silently achieved what they wanted to achieve. And they would have instilled enough fear in Hamas and other militant groups to make them think twice for a long time. The saying “Barking dogs seldom bite” comes to mind here. Let’s not become barking dogs; let’s be the piranha fish who can finish off an opponent in minutes. But piranhas don’t advertise their abilities. They demonstrate what they can do.

Our politicians are no less. For them, the goal is 2014 and this border skirmish provides another opportunity to achieve success in that year. Sushma Swaraj’s jingoistic statement that if Pakistan did not return the head of our soldier, we should go and get 10 heads of theirs is totally unnecessary. She has nothing to do except make such inflammatory speeches and go into hiding. Should such statements lead to war, she will scoot and run away. That’s what her partyfolks did when the Babri Masjid came tumbling down after vicious, communal speeches were made by Advani and co. This is time for Sushma Swaraj to confabulate with the PM behind the scenes. Let her show her mettle by giving suggestions to teach Pakistan a lesson. The country notices. We need strong leaders, and if Swaraj did this, she would emerge stronger. And her party will win our hearts.

There is equally no need for Shiv Sena to ratchet up the same rhetoric everytime. That the Pakistani hockey players are not welcome to play in the Indian Hockey League. Now this is way over the top. The trick is to teach Pakistan a lesson where it hurts; not go after ordinary folks who we hear repeatedly, wish for good relations with India. All reports – including the one from Bachi Karkaria recently, which I heard on TV – suggest that the Pakistani people quite like us guys. Letting off on them won’t serve any purpose. The villain is their army and their political class. Let’s teach them a lesson. But let’s show our large heartedness on such issues. We rub shoulders with the leaders of the G-20; how can we stoop to such street fights with petty neighbors?

For the Congress to support the Shiv Sena is equally criminal. The party’s own government is in power. How can the ruling government rail against something that it itself controls and runs? Its like Mamata Banerjee railing against her cops. She can simply take them to task. The Congress government – if it wanted to stop the Pakistani sportspeople – should have just stopped them. Without making the noise that it made yesterday.

Both sides also have to think of the  consequences of a large scale conflagration. Pakistan is a country on the brink of collapse (if it hasn’t already collapsed). India is poised to re-take its place in history. Recent reports indicate that the economy is staging a smart recovery. The stock markets are booming. India’s place on the high table of global politics and economics is ready for us to occupy. Both countries need to be mindful of their destinies. Both countries need to show maturity. But if Pakistan doesn’t have the strength of conviction to do, that should not deter us from doing so.

What we certainly don’t need is what is put out on a particular TV channel every night in prime time. There is this ugly spectre of chauvinism created by ex army folks and the so called experts (the anchor believes he is one too, though he keeps repeating he is not) of both sides which is completely nonsensical. We cannot call open war mongering good journalism. We cannot allow our airwaves to be used for hurling open threats at each other. Can you imagine – even during the Cold war – Russian military officials coming on Fox News and threatening the Americans of dire consequences? This kind of absurd programming is all too common on Indian TV channels. This has to stop immediately.

The real truth is that a short-duration, surgical, focused attack from the Indian army accompanied by a determined, strong-willed, unified political response is what we need to give the Pakistanis. Teach them a lesson; silently and quickly. Let them lick their wounds for a while. But do it without the rhetoric. Keep media out of this….

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