WE ARE LIKE THIS ONLY
Away from the news TV cameras, security and foreign policy specialists will tell you that it is foolhardy to think of replying to Pakistan in its own coin. The truth is that if we could hit back, we would have done that after the attack on Parliament when A.B. Vajpayee was Prime Minister. Pressured by the Americans to pull back troops after they had sat on the border for 11 months, India at least had the satisfaction of a face-saver when Pakistan publicly committed not to allow its soil to be used by anti-India jihadis.
But Pakistan soon got back to its old ways. The 26/11 Mumbai attack was by far the deadliest. More than 160 innocents perished in that devilish atrocity. Yet, nothing was done to “teach Pakistan a lesson”. Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister at the time. Writing after Uri, then National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan has discussed in some detail the fervid activity at the time terrorists were still holed up in the iconic Taj Hotel in Mumbai. A shell-shocked political leadership was keen to respond to assuage the intense public anger. The high-level meetings presided over by Singh himself, however, came to the painful conclusion that military action would be counter-productive. Cost-analysis of an armed response, it was felt, would eventually end up hurting India far more than it would hurt Pakistan. Why risk disruption of economic progress for an illusory pleasure of avenging an atrocity, ask the realists. In fact, those pressing for a tit-for-tat response will particularly feel angry at Narayanan’s suggestion that the only plausible response to Uri can be a cyberwar against Pakistan, especially given India’s far superior capabilities in the IT sector. In other words, our options to take revenge are woefully narrow. As for strategic restraint and naming and shaming Pakistan in world councils, the truth is that Pakistan does not care a fig.
The US, still the biggest power by some distance, despite the rise of China and the reassertion by Russia under Putin, is being double-crossed daily by Pakistan. Frankly, the fact that Osama bin Laden, on whose head the Americans had announced a reward of $25 million, was holed up in an ISI safe house in a military cantonment ought to have invited the wrath of the mighty Americans. Yet, the US continues to do business with Pakistan as if nothing had happened.
The US’ failure to command obedience of the Rawalpindi GHQ despite its gifting hundreds of billions in aid and military arsenal only underscores the inherent difficulties in waging a half successful war against terror. The US failure in Afghanistan even after waging anti-terror war for over 15 years is proof that neither money nor superior military arsenal can win if an inimical neighbour is hell-bent on subverting your cause. The Afghan Taliban would have crumbled long ago but for the active support of ISI. And yet, the Americans have not been able to tame the evil ISI.
As for launching covert operations, the truth is that we do not have human assets in Pakistan. And they have a huge fifth column to rely upon to target India both from within and without. The few assets on the ground that India had were ordered to be abandoned by I.K. Gujaral, one of the few accidental Prime Ministers that we have had. Gujral probably dreamed of sadda Lahore even in his sleep. He ordered RAW to stop nurturing its agents in Pakistan.
Therefore, notwithstanding the brave talk by the likes of Ram Madhav and others in the ruling party, we do not see Pakistan giving up its jihadi anti-India mission. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who, alas, has not lived up to his promise, instead of issuing empty threats ought to be more concerned about the glaring holes in the security apparatus which resulted in repeated attacks on military establishments under his watch.
As a people, we had for long internalised “retreat and surrender” in the face of a long series of foreign invasions. Truth be told, we lack the spunk to repulse those who raid our house and even burn it down before our eyes. Bangladesh was different. Then the entire population of what was East Pakistan had risen in revolt against the barbaric Punjabi-Muslims who control the Pak army and the civilian establishment.
In sum, do not expect a “fitting reply” for Uri, Pathankot, Gurdaspur. Nor for the continuing Pak-inspired mayhem for more than two months now in the valley. We are like that only. Our history bears witness that we are quick to come to terms with aggressors/occupiers. Memory of Uri too will fade when new crises dominate the airwaves. In any case, intense anger is never prolonged.
However, if it is any consolation it must be noted that on all key socio-economic indicators we are doing far better than Pakistan. A people steeped in a jihadi-fuelled ignorance, who routinely kill poor polio inoculators, who haven’t known true democracy, and enjoy no basic rights, ordinary Pakistanis are in fact deserving of our sympathy. They are the voiceless prisoners of the army generals who have fattened themselves enormously at their cost.
DIPLOMATS BRUSH UP THEIR ENGLISH
Whether or not the efficacy of the Ministry of External Affairs has increased in recent weeks, its public pronouncements have certainly become far more readable, especially following the induction of journalist-turned-politician M.J. Akbar as a junior minister. Tedious bureaucratese has given way to felicitous prose with catchy phrases forcefully conveying India’s point of view. For example, the immediate response to Nawaz Sharif’s tirade in the UN General Assembly, which was read out by one of our junior officers had this line about Pakistan, “the land of Taxila, one of the greatest learning centres of ancient times, is now host to the Ivy League of terrorism. It attracts aspirants and apprentices from all over the world…”
Earlier, Akbar himself, while addressing the first-ever summit of UNGA’s Summit for Refugees and Migrants, had employed his skills as a writer to good effect, terming terrorism as an existentialist threat which the world community would ignore at its peril. Indeed, he traced the origins of the present refugee crisis to terrorism. It is also notable that in Vikas Swarup the MEA has a spokesperson who is no mean writer himself, having authored the award-winning Slumdog Millionaire. There are a number of others in the MEA who can turn a good phrase, including the ambassador-designate to the US, Navtej Sarna, who at present is our high commissioner in the UK. Hopefully, the excellent writing skills will translate into effective diplomacy, enabling India to have a rogue Pakistan blackballed as a terrorist state.
POWERFUL ILLEGAL SQUATTERS
Repeated efforts of the Urban Development Ministry to evict unauthorised occupants of ministerial houses have come to naught with at least two Congress Chief Ministers and one senior minister in the UPA government clinging to the highly subsidized accommodation in Lutyens’ Delhi. Chief Minister Vir Bhadra Singh of Himachal Pradesh and Harish Rawat of Uttaranchal have used every excuse, including court intervention, to stall eviction. The ministerial bungalows were allotted to them when they were first members of UPA government. The fact that both can have the free use of various bhawans and niketans of their respective states in the capital has not persuaded them to do the right thing and vacate illegally occupied bungalows.
As a result, some of the newly-inducted members of the Modi government are unable to move into ministerial houses. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, M.J. Akbar, for instance, commutes nearly 30 kilometres daily each way from deep inside Gurgaon to New Delhi because no suitable house is available. A number of other new ministers are per force making do with accommodation below their entitlement.