Pakistan had eight days to try and repulse the Indian response to Uri, which, it was duly warned, would come at a time and place of its choosing. In the event, Pakistan army was caught napping. The Indians struck and struck hard, knocking the swagger out of the two Sharifs—Raheel who did not want to miss the jaunt to Europe amidst the red-hot tensions on the subcontinent, and the Nawaz who whether in Pakistan or out in Panama counting the stolen billions, matters little anyway.
The success of the surgical strikes, however, should not blind us to the fact that an element of surprise is always crucial in covert and overt warfare. Both organised armies and non-state actors rely on it. The Indian Army on Thursday raided at least three kilometres inside Pakistan-held Kashmir to neutralise scores of terrorists. It was an extraordinary act. And marked the beginning of the likely end of terrorism on the subcontinent as we have known it thus far.
Had our armed forces been empowered to undertake such reprisals when they first began to “bleed India through a thousand cuts” some three decades back, in all probability Pakistan would have ceased harassing us long ago. Or the matters could have come to a head with some conclusion reached about the terms of engagement between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. In the absence of an effective Indian response so far, Indo-Pak relations had meandered aimlessly, with periodic engagements of the diplomatic kind, followed by long months of sullenness induced by terror atrocities in between.
Post-Uri, the Rawalpindi GHQ will finally come to terms that a “new” leader is in place in India. The first post-Independence born Prime Minister, Modi is not to be held back by the usual fears and concerns that had assailed his predecessors. A new, assertive India, the third largest economy in the world in purchasing power parity, is no longer ready to turn the other cheek even as a rogue nation seeks to bully it constantly. Just as well that Modi called its bluff.
Yet, the powerful Sharif—not the one who is a dummy—is bound to respond. Sooner than later, particularly since the clock is ticking against him. Due to retire in November, Sharif would like to come up with a demonstrable riposte so that he can get an extension as army chief. Following the Indian reprisal, Sharif’s moustache has begun to sag. Otherwise his stock with aam Pakistanis was quite high, especially when the army began to go after “bad” terrorists, following the massacre of school kids in Peshawar in December 2014.
Notwithstanding some rotten elements in Kashmir, who mourned the death of two Pakistani soldiers in the post-Uri operation, the parasitical Huriyat crowd will definitely want to tamp down its stone-throwing display following the unmistakable message of strength sent out to Pakistan. If it cannot be business as usual on the Line of Control, it cannot be business as usual in Kashmir too. In short, not only the generals in Rawalpindi GHQ, but the fat-cat Geelanis and Maliks in Srinagar too were put on notice: Behave or else.
When all else fails, the use of force becomes not only unavoidable but a bounden duty. From the way the surgical strikes were carried out, it was clear all concerned had learnt their lessons from the over-the-top reaction to the Myanmar operation last year. On all fronts—military, diplomatic, political, media, etc.—there was a clear demonstration of maturity and perfect coordination. Small wonder, then, everyone, bar Sitaram Yechury, who could not shun the “talk-with-them” dirge even on this rare day of national unity, in the Opposition felt obliged to endorse the Army action.
More likely than not the Uri reprisal could be the beginning of a series of events which might detract from the on-going efforts to boost development and economic growth—the only plausible excuse of the weak for the strategic restraint exercised till Uri. We should be prepared to take on the chin what Pakistan might throw at us next. A durable peace is absolutely necessary for economic growth. But with a hostile neighbour, which survives only on a rich diet of hate against India, pursuing a successful war might be unavoidable to attain durable peace. We should be ready for a Pakistani misadventure.
Meanwhile, if Pakistan denies any surgical strike took place, as it insists it did not, where is the question of responding in kind against India?
BIASED TO THE CORE
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s forceful enunciation of the Indian case in the UN General Assembly on Monday elicited a lot of popular interest. Given the heightened tensions on the border, most television channels beamed it live. But a notable exception was the Rajya Sabha TV. It continued with its archival footage on the hockey great Dhyan Chand and some other sportspersons. This did not come as a surprise. For whether the RSTV reflects the lack of numbers the ruling dispensation has in the Upper House or it is a reflection of the perceived prejudice of those who arbitrarily appointed a non-professional to head the cash-rich channel, is hard to fathom. But the taxpayer-funded channel seems to revel in highlighting the anti-government view, be it on Kashmir or on the post-Uri operations.
Whether it is the selection of guests for panel discussions, or in general programming, the anti-Modi bias is hard to hide. Following the surgical strike, the anchor and a regular guest on the channel were at pains to suggest that there was nothing unprecedented about the Army action and the only difference this time was that the government had decided to tom-tom about it. When a retired diplomat sought to correct the impression, the anchor cut him short mid-sentence.
BIHAR’S LOSS, BENGAL’S GAIN?
When rulers get a bee in the bonnet, invariably ordinary people suffer. Before the Patna High Court nixed prohibition in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar could not help congratulate himself for the great feat he had performed, particularly for the long-suffering women in the state. And for men who might have liked an occasional drink or two, he had this sane advice that they should sleep and dream of jannat or some such thing. His zeal, however, did not prevent him to rescue a JD(U) leader from his home district who was caught with nearly 200 bottles of the deadly brew. Kumar had the SHO suspended and the JD(U) colleague released, an arbitrary act which forced the Excise Secretary K.K. Pathak to go on protest leave.
Anyway, if Nitish had gone completely in one direction, next door in West Bengal Mamata Banerjee has swung in the opposite direction. Now bars and restaurants can serve liquor all 365 days of the year, while the number of dry days has been slashed to a mere four. Ironically, Mahashtami Day during the fortnight-long Durga Puja festival, is not one of them. This has led to a strange situation, with liquor shop owners, who normally hate dry days, collectively petitioning the state government to increase the number of dry days. Wonder if West Bengal freed up the sale of liquor 24x7 with an eye on bolstering the state’s coffers since Bihar was completely dry.
SHARIF AND SHARIF
A day after the surgical strikes, as per this nugget of internet humour, the aforementioned Sharifs along with a couple of ordinary Pakistanis were waiting at a Rawalpindi bus stop when someone looking like Narendra Modi accosted one of them. Next moment the Modi lookalike hit one hard across the face of the Sharif he had accosted and disappeared. Shocked, one of the Pakistanis asked the poor Sharif who was still nursing his cheek why he had not hit back. “Why should I? He asked for Nawaz Sharif, but I am Raheel Sharif. I made a fool of that fellow, didn’t I…?”