Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On Yesterday's Post, and the War-with-Pakistan Option

My post yesterday asking as to why the Indian govt. insists on keeping the military option off the table in its discussions with Pakistan caused quite a heated discussion, both here and (mostly) on facebook. In spite of various disclaimers in the post, some of my friends felt that I was advocating a war with Pakistan, and had no regard for the innocent lives lost in the horror that is war.

So, to (hopefully) make it clear once and for all, here are some points:

  1. I did NOT advocate war with Pakistan in my post, which I know will solve nothing. I did NOT even ask for it to be our primary talking point, which I know will only help the extremists on either side. My question was simply as to why that option is so categorically off the table. Not second option, not 100th option, but just _off the table_.

  2. To those who were anguished by my post, I apologize for not properly qualifying the question. It should have read "From a logistical/strategic point of view, why is war with Pakistan off the table?"

    Note that I have no misgivings about our Govt. being all innocent and peaceful. For FSM's sake, we still have the death penalty for the "rarest of the rare" cases! Given that I do not expect them to really keep the war option off the table for "humanitarian" reasons, I was wondering they are still not mentioning it. It was a question of (dry) strategy, nothing more.

  3. The above (logistical) question was best answered by Anupama, who convinced me that we cannot (militarily) risk a war with Pakistan due to the vastly superior capabilities of China. (detailed answer here). I now understand that keeping war off the table is not the "wimpy" option, but a strategic reality. And given that is true, the article by SG pointed out by Varun makes sense (although I share Varun's reservations about the competence of our govt.).

  4. I have NOTHING against the people of Pakistan, and in fact I have, on multiple occasions, advocated for a solution through peaceful approaches. If you do not believe me, have a look at my posts that mention Pakistan, especially this one, where I addressed my PoV of what India can do in light of the "failing country" narrative.

    No. Seriously. Go read that post before you make accusations about my having a hardline and violence-advocating approach towards the Pakistani people.

    And for those who dislike clicking links, here are some snippets from the above-mentioned blog post:
    When I think loudly about this issue, the following comes to mind.:

    Problem context/assumptions:

    2. The people of pakistan do not actively want to mess with India. They, like people everywhere, want to lead their lives and raise their kids.


    Assumption 2 above rules out options like nuking/war, not to mention the fact that they also have nukes :-).

    So the _way to go_ to address the situation there, in my opinion, is
    1. Figure out what action hurts their _government/army_. They don’t care if you send back their singers, hell it plays directly into their hands of “Indians are hegemonical, and we should hate them”. Until we hurt their establishment, there is no solving this problem. [focussed trade boycott anyone?]

    2. The only way out, in addition to finding the magic bullet in point 1 above, is to _encourage_ the moderates there. Lets face it, a pakistan which is ruled by the Taliban is not in India’s interest. But it is also _not_ in the interest of the moderates there. [I have pakistani friends, and have heard a lot about how they feel threatened by the taliban/moral-police as much as you feel threatened by the Senes]. The only long term way out for us is to help the moderates in Pakistan get a voice. If it means letting some of them even show up on our TV Channels to make their case, so be it.

    / these are initial thoughts, but I hope you see where I am going.
    // am not saying that allow any T,D&H from pakistan on Indian TV. But for a change, lets stop focussing on the crazies there who call us “hindu zionists”, and focus on the more moderate voices there. I know it makes for better TRP to give airtime to the former, but the latter are the ones whom _we_ should give visibility to.
    /// There are those who would say ‘just secure our borders, close all communications, and wait for it to implode’. I for one would _not_ want a Nuclear armed neighbor to implode, and last time I checked, we were nowhere near securing our borders completely.
    //// Reiterating: Lets _not_ break cultural ties. If anything, let their artists perform here. If they have a good welcome, they will go back and share their experiences, which will only work to dispel the lies that their govt. has told their people.

Anyways, this is what I had to say. If you still think that I am some extreme-right warmonger with no regard for human life, suit yourself.



  1. i was a little shocked reading ur last post.. shocked because for the first time in your life i heard the word war first from you.. most of the times its me.. and little because i had a belief somewhere in the back of my mind that you will leave your gandheejee taught ahimsa way some day.. :)

    But after completely reading the last post i understood that you are not talking about going on a war.. but you are just saying to use the word war once in 4 hours discussion .. :O

    its just like a person saying the cards in my hand can be a trail of ace.. but how does it matter. you got to have a trail of ace then only you can win..

    i mean whats the use of using the word war in the discussion when everyone know that you dont have the guts to go on a war.. you gotta ask 279 MPs about their opinion on war .. you gotta ask every other group in the country before deciding to go on a war.. you gota ask banglore people if they think going on a war is vulgar or not.. you gotta ask all the news channels if they will potray you as a good guy if you go on a war..

    and in any rare case .. if all of them say yes.. it would have been 12-13 years since the last incident happened which made you angry enough to think about war and then there is no use..

    So better remove the word from the discussion.. itne lafde mein kaun padega..

  2. War is off the table because our foriegn policy makers think that avoiding wars for 38 years in a row would be rewarded by a UN Security Council seat. Gandhi ji & congress leaders approach towards foriegn policies hfff.
    Post Indo-China war in 1962, China encroached thousands of kilometres of our territory. Even post this encroachment, then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru said, “We forgive China for this transgression”.
    Next day, Ram Dhari Singh Dinkar, a Hindi poet, had this to say:
    क्षमा शोभती उस भुजंग को, जिसके पास गरल हो
    वो क्षमा क्या करे, जो दंतहीन, विषहीन और सरल हो
    (When a serpent that has venom, teeth and strength forgives, there is grace in its forgiveness, there is magnanimity. But when a serpent that has no venom and no bite claims to forgive, it sounds like hypocrisy and amounts to hiding its defeat with noble words). It means nothing and fools no one.
    In other words, poet Dinkar was trying to tell the leadership of the country that you can only forgive when you are strong. Your anger and, conversely, your forgiveness are graceful only when you have strength. If you do not have strength and you get angry, you might be vanquished for your bravado. And if you have no strength and you declare that you are forgiving someone who is more powerful than you, the world will laugh at you.

  3. Khanna: Blogger just ate my long comment too. We are even I guess :-).

    Puneet: I completely concur with Dinkar (my favorite hindi poet, and a self-proclaimed "bad Gandhian")'s lines. I have loved those lines from childhood. Very apt.

    However, we have to note that indeed, we do NOT have the strategic advantage in this situation, thanks to us being inferior to China.

    But then, this particular post of mine is not about _why_ the military option is off the table. That answer is here. This post is to make it clear as to why I asked that question in the first place :-).

    I guess it is best to end my comment with what Dinkar used to end his Kurukshetra (ref: last page here)

    आशा के दीप को जलाए चलो धर्मराज
    एक दिन होगी मुक्त भूमि रण-भीती से|

    भावना मनुष्य की न राग में रहेगी लिप्त,
    सेवित रहेगा नहीं जीवन अनीति से|

    हार में मनुष्य की न महिमा घटेगी और,
    तेज न बढेगा किसी मानव की जीत से|

    स्नेह-बलिदान होंगे पाप नरता के एक,
    धरती मनुष्य की बनेगी स्वर्ग प्रीती से|

    (All: sorry, don't have the time to transliterate in English. The essential meaning is "Keep the flame of hope lit, someday man and this earth will be free from war")

  4. animesh sir, agar aapke pass samay hoo to yeh blog padiyegaa. southasians ki soch aapko isme spasth milege. mein to mureed hoon iskka :P


  5. hope is a good thing.. probably the best of the things.. and no good thing ever dies..

    heard it somewhere.. so thought of writing reading the kurukshetra piece

  6. The only secure solution for a nation bordered by hostile territories is to seal its borders. The eternal maxim "survival of the fittest" always rules. If we are weak any one can hit us anytime and to be honest i don't think Pakistan will ever be able to solve its problems as there is no institution worth having save ISI and Military. Untill they develop true "democracy" and well defined foreign policy we should not talk to them. The issue of J&K also is a burning question. Do plebiscite in each and every district there and transfer the population depending on their choices. People who want freedom should be granted. If Switzerland can survive between the hostile Germany and France in 2nd World War why can't J%K survive India and Pakistan. No body wants war and as they say eternal vigilance is the cost of stability then so be it.

  7. The question is not about having war as an option, but about having an option other then what the Indian government is presently pursuing. We have just accepted the option of dialog on face value. I don't agree with the PM's contention that we can't wish away our neighbours. Our neighbours have got have got hate ingrained in them through a proper, officailly endorsed education system. So, by default, they hate us. The moderates their are a select breed of enlightened people. They are moderate despite the system. Therefore, terror is not the only infrastructure at work against India, there is a Hate Infrastructure as well and the peace loving people (and government) have the responsibility of dismantling. The call for dialog without some stance change from Pakistan is useless to say the least. But then we should as Animesh said we should give voice to the moderates their - "Open up to moderates, isolate the extremists". The average Pakistani should be able to realize that they can't continue hating India, there are enormous incentive for them and their country in having peace with India . Putting the whole thing bluntly, Pakistan is obsessed with the idea of India and until it gets over this obsession, no matter how many talks we have, things will remain the same.

  8. Daniel10:29 PM

    Hi Animesh

    I'm not an expert but I would say it's off the table because it's more useful there. The card is still in your hand you can still play it, if it's on the table you have no card in hand anymore you just have to go to war or to chicken.

    Another argument would be, "if you make a thread it has to be credible". The question is "at what point india could really" strike pakistan?

    there's no comparison with US/afghanistan or US/Irak or Israel/Iran. In the first cases, US did not fear any retaliation in the later Israel is threaten to be literally detroyed. It's not the case here.

    For the threat to be somehow credible India need a strong outside support (US mainly) and a strong inside support. For that to happen negociation have to fail first and tension has to rise otherwise india would look like a warmonger.

    Moreover pakistani power is weak and somehow moderate. Maybe they can't really do much more. And a direct threat would either weaken them even more if they comply or strenghten them if they resist.
    I may simple be counterproductive.