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Tag Archives | Uri

Countering the two Pakistans

by Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas)

Summary of an interview I gave to Channel News Asia.

The Indian Army claimed that it conducted surgical strikes on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to pre-empt another infiltration by terrorists. Before we discuss the impact of this claim, it is important to analyse the antecedents. Else, we’ll be falling into the trap of recency bias which makes us react emotionally to the most recent events on the ground.

The current Indian government, much like the earlier Indian governments, started off with the vision that normalising the relationship with the Pakistani civilian establishment provides the best chance for peace in the region. Consequently, Nawaz Sharif was invited to the Indian PM’s swearing-in ceremony. Subsequently, the Indian PM also made a trip to Lahore in continuation of this policy. However, all this outreach ended with first, the attack on a bus and police station in Gurdaspur and then an attack on the Pathankot air base. More recently, the terrorists attacked the Indian army brigade headquarters in Uri. This cycle—rounds of talks ending up in retaliation coming from Pakistan has a long history. Hence we’ve previously advocated that:

it is futile to spend cycles on trying to engage Pakistan at all costs.  And that, only by developing and putting in place mitigation strategies can India truly hope to better insulate itself from the terror infrastructure that operates out of Pakistan [Discussion document: Sustained Dialogue Process as India’s Pakistan Policy].

Given that normalising the relationship with the Pakistani civilian government has higher costs than benefits, India was on the lookout for stronger options after the attack in Uri. And hence the attack on terrorist “launchpads” across the border. One needs to remember that this attack was not against the Pakistani Army or the Pakistani people. It was explicitly targeted towards terrorist infrastructure. Moreover, the Indian Army claimed responsibility for the attack and conveyed that there are no intentions to carry on with further strikes.

Pakistan’s response
Pakistani news agencies have been denying that there was a “surgical strike” and tried to play it down as cross-border fire. The terminology doesn’t matter. What is significant is that this was perhaps the first time that the Indian army openly claimed that it had struck down terrorist camps on the other side of the LoC. Even though tactical operations across the border from both sides aren’t new, this explicit claim is meant to blow the lid off the lie that Pakistan has been peddling throughout the world: any Indian response against a terror strike will eventually lead to nuclear war.

India’s claim and Pakistan’s subsequent dithering shows that there are options for India to explore below the nuclear threshold. There will be pressure on the Pakistani military establishment to retaliate and we might see some firing on the LoC in the days to come. But if Pakistan chooses to escalate in response to an attack on terrorists, it will only provide further evidence to how the army and the militants operate in unison and are in fact a part of an organisational structure— a complex.

What about the diplomatic responses?
Diplomatic responses (like refusing to attend the SAARC meeting) and military responses are not mutually exclusive to each other. In fact, since Pakistan is not one geopolitical entity, but two—the first a putative civilian state and the second a military-jihadi complex—two responses are needed to counter the two Pakistans.

The diplomatic responses are meant to address the Pakistani people and the Pakistani putative state. They are meant to convey that the costs of supporting terrorists far outweigh the benefits. On the other hand, the overt military strike is meant to convey to the military-jihadi complex that India has options to strike back and that “tactical” nuclear weapons cannot be used as an excuse to target Indian people and the Republic of India.

Pranay Kotasthane (@pranaykotas) is a Research Fellow at the Takshashila Institution.

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How Media is Feeding the Jingo Nationalism

By Dr. Suma Singh

India @70 – as a nation we are celebrating the various facets of the historic seventy years of life as an independent nation. The story however is a mixed bag of hits and misses, tales of indomitable spirit and success which have brought smiles on our faces and tears in times of adversity. But in these seventy years we have also managed to create a media industry which seems to believe it is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. Primetime on leading channels has become more of agenda warfare and propaganda. Interspersed with nationalistic jingo, our television anchors have taken up the cause of being the first on the line of control and seem to display raw patriotism more than our defence forces.

Post Uri tragedy, electronic media seems to have decided that war is the best form of revenge and the entire media machinery is devoted to the cause of whipping war frenzy, what with talk of a war-room in South Block. The few sane voices which have appeared on the various shows have been muzzled by the vocal power of the anchors and warmongers. Call for a military reply to the dastardly attack is not taking into consideration the ground reality. We may have one of the largest armed forces in the world but they are bogged down by the chinks in the armour like the outdated and poorly maintained weaponry and a large number of fighter planes and ships that are not serviceable, according to a report in 2014 by IHS Jane, a defence publication. The larger issue is how war may take us back by a couple of years and derail the economic achievements of the last twenty five years.

Another exasperating story on primetime in leading English news channels was the issue of banning Pakistani artists from Indian entertainment industry. The argument was taken to ridiculous extents when a prominent news anchor wondered why the heartthrob of millions across both sides of the border, Fawad Khan, would not tweet to condemn the dastardly attack on the army camp in Uri when he made crores in India. Firstly, can you imagine a Tendulkar or Bachchan Sr. tweeting and condemning any action of the government and defence forces on the ground of humanism?! The backlash they will face will be led by the same electronic media and anchors. Secondly, people to people contact is the need of the hour, more so as it makes us appreciate the common roots the two nations share. If a jihadi factory has emerged in Pakistan it is largely to be blamed at the educational system which has painted all Indians as kafirs and nurtured generations of youth on anti-India propaganda. India should not fall into the same trap and become a nurturing ground for hatred as this will backfire on us given our large minority population.

As Indians, a Uri and Pathankot hurts us but we cannot be swayed by pure emotions and allow media to set the agenda for Government responses and decisions. To quote Albert Einstein “Nationalism is nothing more than an idealistic rationalization for militarism and aggression” and this seems so apt for the nationalism which electronic media is whipping up today. War makes for good TRPs but at what cost? Electronic Media must behave in a more constrained responsible manner and reasonable voices must be heard out.

Dr. Suma Singh is an Associate Professor at the Department of Economics, Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru

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