Narendra Modi has made Shiv Khera stand upside down by successfully doing something different. Especially at a time when he was being seen as another, and more verbose, Vajpayee. And the Prime Minister has done it rather well.
More than the Army, it was Modi who sprung up the element of surprise: he lulled Pakistanis into believing, and exasperated many Indians in the process, that he is little better than his predecessors, that he would not do more than ‘strongly condemning’ the ‘dastardly’ attack at Uri that killed 18 soldiers. His Sunday speech, in which he urged Pakistan to join hands with India to fight poverty, now seems to be a good camouflage. While covering himself with the usual drivel, he chose to shed cowardice, euphemistically called strategic restraint.
A few observers have asked for evidence to buttress the claims made by the Director General Military Operations, Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh. Maybe the DGMO, speaking for the government, was being economical with the truth, but that is beside the point. That something did happen along the Line of Control in the wee hours of Thursday is pretty certain; and equally certain is the fact that never before India announced border skirmishes with such elan. Had nothing had happened, the responses from Pakistan would not have been so somber; Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf or PTI chairperson Imran Khan would not have said that his reply to Modi would have been much stronger than Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s.
Perhaps Modi was trying to bolster his own image that has taken a beating because of not just the perceived continuity in foreign and defence policies but also failure to generate jobs and make things better in general. Evidently, he has attained that objective.
Besides, our Prime Minister has also succeeded in rattling our western neighbor. The doubting Thomases notwithstanding, it is quite obvious that now Pakistan would not be blasé in its belief that it could keep aiding and abetting jihadists without any response from India.
This is not to say that the jihadists would be cowed down so much as to lay down arms; indoctrinated with a supremacist ideology, they will continue to strive to attack India and establish a global caliphate. But they would have to cross higher and more difficult barriers. Similarly, their handlers will also have to bear higher costs. That is some deterrence, maybe inadequate but it is there in some measure.
Further, I am sure that Pakistanis are sensible enough to realize that once a taboo is broken, it remains broken forever. If India can strike once, it can do it again.
Ranbir Singh’s statement was a reflection of India’s discreet aggression against Pakistan. “During these counter-terrorist operations significant casualties were caused to terrorists and those providing support to them. The operations aimed at neutralizing terrorists have since ceased. We do not have any plans for further continuation. However, the Indian armed forces are fully prepared for any contingency that may arise.”
The message was loud and clear: we have spanked the bad boys who were getting uppity, and that’s the end of the story as far as we are concerned; now you, being their patrons, don’t get upset or we’ll lick you too.
It is to the credit of Modi, his government, and the armed forces that everything worked like a symphony—diplomacy, camouflage, military action, and perception management. Today, Pakistan stands isolated—well, almost isolated—in the comity of nations. Beijing is not very keen in its support to Islamabad, ditto with Arab nations; Muslim countries in south Asia are opposed to Pakistan. America, Pakistan’s old ally, is cheesed off with its pigheaded support to jihadists. Europe is also angry with Pakistan. Only a recent military exercise with Russia has delighted Pakistanis, even though it is of little consequence.
At any rate, all the subterfuges that the Pakistan has employed to cover its felony have been exposed. All its excuses sound hollow, including we-are-victims-not-perpetrators-of-terror. It is like a drug lord lamenting the addition of his own kids.
After the Uri attack, Modi has tactfully tackled the situation. He, however, has to ensure that he doesn’t get swayed by either hawks or the peddlers of strategic restraint.