It has been 5 days since the URI attack shook the nation.
Millions of pages have been written about this and thousands of hours of air time have kept a nation glued to their TV sets taking in and interpreting the hundreds of expert opinions in the print, electronic and visual media. It was wonderful to see a unanimous condemnation of the dastardly attack in the first few days and then, as expected, the questions and the sarcasm started to surface from a selected and predictable group of people.
Videos of Prime Minister Modi’s interview, while he was CM Gujarat, started being circulated where he had stated his position on Pakistan that they have to be responded to in their own terms and not with “love letters” or “biryani”. Comments about “achhe din” and how their lack thereof were heard. “Where is the 56 inch seena” asked someone. A tweet sent by Mr Modi before the elections addressing PM Manmohan Singh suddenly started getting retweeted. These were statements / tweets of Mr Modi when he was CM Gujarat and when he was running BJP’s election campaign.
The scenario has changed dramatically once he was elected the Prime Minister. Mr Modi cannot afford to implement what he said earlier though I am sure he remembers all his comments. Taking action on his then comments would be akin to committing hara-kiri. Now strong decisions need to be taken and these have to be weighed against all the possible bilateral and international repercussions.
The hawks on TV want an immediate military response. Inexperienced politicians are speaking about retaliating with “an entire jaw for a tooth”. A purported article by an online site talking about Indian Special Forces crossing the Line of Control and killing 20 terrorists went viral, was received by me from a patriotic Indian in USA – this was later denied. A heartwarming video recording of a group of soldiers stating “Kashmir to hoga lekin Pakistan nahin hoga” has gone viral over social media (I tweeted it as well) and has been seen literally by hundreds of thousands of people.
Everyone in the country wants a visible response. So do I.
But as always happens after a national tragedy which results in an uproar, temperatures have started to come down and passion is giving way to reason in most cases and cynicism and criticism in some.
With India’s significantly superior defence capabilities, I am certain India can do serious damage to Pakistan’s military. Though Pakistan loves to talk about its nuclear deterrent, they cannot possibly use this, no matter what the provocation maybe because they recognize that India too is equally if not better equipped. Killing of tens, maybe hundreds of terrorists will not solve the problem but will exacerbate it further. Over the past few decades, the minds of thousands of young people in Pakistan have been moulded to believe in their version of jihad. They have been brainwashed into believing that they are doing God’s work when they attack India and the infidels.
So is an all-out attack on Pakistan really a solution? Can the potential killing of hundreds of Pakistanis be a revenge for the loss of our 18 soldiers? There will be a retaliation from the other side and more Indian soldiers will also die. In addition, who knows how many civilian deaths will be on the Indian side. No one likes body bags and if this were to happen, the tide would very quickly turn against the very same Government which is currently being goaded into taking decisive and quick action.
We have seen that the killing of Osama bin Laden did not destroy Al Qaeda. The Taliban, without Mullah Omar continue to do damage in Afghanistan. The emergence and strengthening of ISIS over the past few years despite innumerable surgical strikes only goes to prove that the World cannot wipe out terrorism using force – as someone said, you kill one person, ten more stand up to replace him.
The Pakistan Army, the fidayeens and the Pakistani religious leaders would want India to attack them militarily. This will give their ridiculous adventures like Uri, sanctity and also give them the excuse to go with their begging bowl to their wealthy friends for more money.
India as a nation has moved far ahead of Pakistan. Economically, we are at least 10 times the size of our depleted neighbor. In terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), India is ranked no 3 while Pakistan is at 43. The World sees us as a powerful partner while most nations are cringing away from Pakistan. We have built our stature in the World after decades of diplomacy and successful business partnerships.
We must also accept that Uri happened because of a failure of our intelligence. As we do our own introspection, we have to ensure that such lapses do not happen again. We need to get our own house in order as well. Our defence services have been short changed for a long time and it is only in the last few years that favourable decisions have started to be taken. We need the best surveillance systems and drone technology to protect our borders. No cost is high enough to put the lives of our soldiers in the balance.
War will have serious consequences on our country. The stock markets will fall. During the Kargil War, the stock market dropped by over 10%. Can we afford to have a similar drop and see a huge valuation wiped off? Investment inflows which have started seeing record levels will slow down dramatically and will take a while to re-start. We also do not want war to create even more pockets of resistance in Kashmir, which the separatists in Kashmir will push for.
Significant steps have been taken to diplomatically isolate Pakistan and get the World to see it as the primary sanctuary for terrorists, which it is. Pakistan is already standing alone in the comity of nations and this loneliness will only intensify as the cold winter months approach.
The comment by the young Indian Foreign Service officer at the United Nations calling the ancient centre of learning Taksh-shila, the new “Ivy League of Terror” will haunt and hurt Pakistanis for many years.
The Pakistan Prime Minister will remember his rebuff at the United Nations, from the US Government and even from China, who has stated that they would prefer to take a neutral position. Amongst the few sane voices in Pakistan, the Pakistani press exhibits its nervousness in all their television discussions while the few retired generals keep rattling their now blunted and rusted sabres and drop the “N” word in every discussion.
India needs to hurt Pakistan economically and politically while retaining our right to strike where we want to at our will. There will be short term collateral damage for the common citizens of both countries but this would be a very small price to pay.
- Revoke the Most Favoured Nation status given to Pakistan
- Stop exports to Pakistan, currently in the region of US$ 1.5 billion per annum
- Reduce exports from Pakistan by increasing tariffs currently in the region of about US$ 2.0 billion per annum
- Make securing Indian visas much more difficult for Pakistanis
- Stop flight of Pakistan International Airlines over India territory
- Open discussions of the Indus Water sharing accord.
The wise Chanakya had stated in his famous work ArthShastra “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. This is the time for us understand implement this teaching in the context of Pakistan. Look at Pakistan’s neighbours.
- The Balochistan strategy has struck all the right chords in with the rebels in Balochistan and Pakistan is struggling to accept the weakness in their soft underbelly. One comment from the PM has set the proverbial fire in Pakistan’s backyard. We have so many of our disbelievers telling us that Balochistan is not Bangladesh – we love to draw parallels and later play the “I told you so game”. The early moves in Balochistan is only the beginning of the challenges Pakistan will see in its own backyard.
- Gilgit-Baltistan could be next. We must create so much dissonance within Pakistan that they have time for little else.
- Afghanistan is clearly on India’s side. Sustained political pressure from their Western neighbor will continue to hurt Pakistan.
- China, who Pakistan claims as an “all weather friend” is led by a group of pragmatic politicians who are struggling to handle their own economic slowdown. Politically, China needs Pakistan for what it wrongly believes as a counter to India. However, China, with its slowing economy recognizes the huge market India has to offer to its companies.
- Islamic Nations, while paying lip service to Pakistan, do not see any economic possibilities with Pakistan. This is clear from the incredible reception PM Modi received during his visit to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
- The SAARC nations particularly the larger nations like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will not see any reason to stand with Pakistan.
- The United States, Russia and other major nations are already on India’s side and the United Nations has refused to include Nawaz Sharif’s plea to intervene in the discussions between India and Pakistan.
The PM has already stated categorically that the perpetrators will pay. He is a strong leader who has the best interests of the country. He must be hurting as much as if not more than all his fellow citizens over the Uri attack.
Much as I to would like to see a “strong and credible” response for the lives of our soldiers, Mr Modi must not give in to all our jingoistic demands. He needs to calibrate the response and take steps that he knows are in the best interest of the country.
There is really no single answer or solution to the mess Pakistan is in. The Aam Aadmi in Pakistan is definitely tired of all this and wants to lead a peaceful life if only their leaders would let them.
PM Sharif and General Sharif need to sit down with their political and military advisors, religious leaders and terrorist organisations and take stock of where they are as a nation and whether they need to continue their “adventurism” or start to correct the problems of their own making. From the time, if they do decide to change course, it will take at least one whole generation to change their thinking and to assimilate once again into the World.
The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of the best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye and The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur.
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