By Khaled Ahmed
October 1, 2016
Responding to national war hysteria, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the go-ahead for a “surgical strike” inside the Pakistani side of the Line of Control (LoC), and it took place in the early hours of September 29. Director general military operations, Lt. General Ranbir Singh, told the nation: “Based on receiving specific and credible inputs that some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch pads along the LoC to carry out infiltration and conduct terrorist strikes inside Jammu and Kashmir and in various metros in other states, the Indian army conducted surgical strikes at several of these launch pads to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists.” A meeting with journalists was a “details later” session and no one asked for more.
It was supposed to be a ground strike with Special Forces, assisted by helicopter gunships. On the Pakistani side, the attack was declared routine with ground troops crossing the LoC and killing a Havildar and a Naik of the Pakistan army whose parents immediately declared joy at their martyrdom swearing that more boys in the family could have been available for this ecstasy if they had them. Pakistan declared that it was a ground trespass in which India lost eight soldiers. The low point reached in the Indo-Pak media war went further through the floor. Cheap sarcasm was hurled at each other by the two sides, pretending to have become “internally” united against an “external” foe. The farce of being “united” was revealed by the ongoing campaign unleashed by the opposition to unseat the PMLN government whose leader Nawaz Sharif “sucks up” to India and “made a bad speech at the UN”.
A “surgical strike”, it seems, has performed no surgery of the South Asian mind gone off the rails. India declared victory; Pakistan denied it and it sounded like Pakistani victory. Analysts said it was not a surgical strike because it was not done by the air force. But the term is so loose you can define it whichever way you like, it could be an artillery battle with precision-guided rockets. Pakistan is making “armpit sounds”, as they say in Urdu, declaring victory. Religious parties thought jihad was finally on and offered militant manpower to the army. No one cared about the escalation such an incident on the LoC could provoke leading to a nuclear alert.
Prime Minister Modi didn’t get much out of the surgical strike. The outside world got worried, America telling India to cool it, letting Pakistan off the hook. But Pakistan didn’t have the mind to take advantage of it at the international level. Defence Minister Khwaja Asif was careless in his bluster, promising “every kind of support” to the Kashmiri “freedom fighters”, giving the lie to the old diplomatic pledge to only offer “political support”. Everybody and his uncle in the world outside knew that Pakistan was nursing non-state actors that struck across the LoC, at times without the permission of Islamabad, and at other times did so to punish the army chief who they thought was “calling off jihad” with India. The world, led by America, repeats the mantra of “get rid of your terrorist organisations” while determined to not let Pakistan’s Kashmir policy bear any fruit.
Pakistan’s real state power is at a low ebb, having seeped into empowered madrasas and a military mind that clings to the non-intellectual exercise of “irregular warfare” which the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu called “noise before self-defeat”. The Indian mind is into a low swoop to match Pakistan’s non-cerebral rhetoric. What India needs to do next is develop some “non-state actors” to start its own asymmetrical warfare, paying for it by losing its writ just like Pakistan has with terrorists on the UN’s head-money list.
India doesn’t know where it is winning. It is in “soft power” where it has emerged as the most influential state with three SAARC states walking in lock-step with it against Pakistan. For the past decade, Pakistan too has been “softened” by what the jingoists in Pakistan have dubbed “cultural invasion” by India. Indian films have “conquered” an increasingly jihadi Pakistan. Far more important than the money earned by Indian film-makers is the disarming of the textbook-poisoned Pakistani mind. Indians back home can’t visualise the kind of positive emotion visiting actors like Punjabi-speaking Om Puri arouse in Pakistan. Now, both countries have become unhinged. Pakistani singers and actors have been sent home amid curses no one in the world outside can comprehend.
On the Pakistani side, a similar surge is in evidence: Punish the blokes who travel to India to shamelessly suck up to the enemy. Ban Indian movies, which will automatically lead to the revival of a collapsed Pakistani film industry, under Islam. Like the clerics in Pakistan, BJP hoods on the roads can rough up anyone they like, the glint in the eye resembling that of their blasphemy-aroused counterparts in Pakistan.
A day before October 1, which was Annie Besant’s birth anniversary, the newspaper Dawn celebrated the Diyaram Gidumal National College in Hyderabad Sindh — now simply Government College — which she had founded in 1917 with the help of Hindu well-wishers like Deewan Bolchand Shahani “because the nearest college was in Bombay”. Once we were not so bad.