The sabre rattling between India and Pakistan is incredibly disconcerting. Two nations with much still to achieve are on the precipice of giving it all away.
There is no consolation in the possibility that both could conduct retaliatory surgical strikes without recourse to nuclear weapons, however unlikely both possibilities are. Once a precedent has been sent, there is no way of knowing which surgical strike sends the other over the edge.
Game theory assumes rational actors will fear the nihilistic outcome from mutually assured destruction. But if the media (and in this case, especially India’s) is any indication of popular opinion, rationality has gone the way of the dodo. War it seems has already broken out on social media. For a man who himself didn’t war game all the outcomes of the Kargil episode thoroughly, Musharraf was right in a recent interview that India hasn’t either when speaking of their possible actions post Uri.
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That being said, it’s fortunate that there is still a question of legitimacy surrounding the current claims of both nations being fought on the world stage; both India and Pakistan have a lot of convincing to do before their cases can be pleaded convincingly, and that time required is an asset for diplomacy to work. India’s preparedness is in question, and hopefully as in 2001 after the Mumbai attacks, the time frame required by India to get the massive logistics operation of getting their battle formations ready back then allowed multilateral diplomacy to let cooler heads prevail, the same will happen now.
Both nations now blame the other in the aftermath of terrorism in timeframes where there cannot be any real semblance of evidence gathering done to back the accusations up. It makes sense to do so for governments that need an immediate reprieve to explain loss of life and domestic security failures, but at exactly times like these it straightjackets them when the public wants their pound of flesh, having been whipped up into a frenzy over time.
While Pakistan does have a history of militants operating within its borders with both tacit and overt sanction, the definitive case that Pakistan is responsible for Uri is falling apart because India jumped the gun. This is but a temporary and not decisive reprieve. In the long game of diplomacy, the past few years have been a losing proposition for Pakistan – with the exception of a relatively good performance at the United Nations General Assembly. Alienating its neighbours and allies, Pakistan cannot stem the tide by just developing a narrative. It needs to offer more in the way of eliminating all non-state actors. The world does not have an appetite for religiously motivated militancy driving independence, but the Kashmir cause is propagatable, legitimately, as a case of freedom from brutality and excess. Diplomacy, as is currently being pursued, is the right way forward.
That being said, India must recognise its Kashmir problem is not linearly associated with Pakistan’s interference, which, frankly, for a number of years has been negligible. The violence of its occupation is the current driver, not Pakistan’s encouragement. Modi’s statements on Balochistan are the opening salvo on internationalising Balochistan as retaliation, hoping to create equivalence with Kashmir. But perhaps most dangerously, his words have put the whole spectrum of the Baloch issue under pressure because it has thrown shade on anyone with a problem in how Balochistan is being run, including those groups who are disgruntled but still amenable to the state.
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Pakistan right now is not being judged for any action in Uri, but for its history of militants using the country as a staging ground. This is a weakness for both India and Pakistan, for India because its case is not airtight, for Pakistan because it is viewed with suspicion.
The key, of course, is to speak with moderation; kudos for Maleeha Lodhi doing that well in New York. But stoking nationalism that is defined by where one stands on neighbours is a dangerous proposition; it narrows the space for opinion when testosterone rages. The intended casualty is the enemy, but the real casualty is internal freedom.
Ultimately, especially for Modi, the nation’s interest will be driven by how one can withstand the baying crowds to give real stewardship when everyone demands immediate gratification. Speaking to the gallery achieves nothing when what is required is to speak to each other.
We will probably get out of this predicament. But with more incidents like this, and a hardening of governments and people alike over time, we will become a region with no room for Vasili Arkhipovs.
Vasili Arkhipov is who we need now. During the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, Vasili was one of the lead members of a USSR nuclear submarine in international waters that was being forced to surface through American depth charges. The submarine moved deeper to avoid the Americans, and had no contact from Moscow. The ship’s captain feared nuclear war had already broken out, and wanted to use their nukes. Vasili held steadfast in opposing its usage, wanting more information.
One can imagine the pressure on Vasili at that time. Arguing for calmer thinking when everyone had assumed Armageddon. Neither side has enough information on Uri right now; it’s time to be a little like Vasili.
Courtesy : Express Tribune