Truth about Modi’s strategic restraint

September 26,2016

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ISLAMABAD: What forced Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to get down off his horse back and talk sense, for a change, instead of attacking Pakistan?

The apparent first and foremost reason behind his change of mind is the fear of sure matching or even greater retaliation from Pakistan if India embarked upon any adventure of limited strikes or a full-fledged war.

That Pakistan is a nuclear power and capable of taking any step if pushed to the wall gripped Modi’s mind while getting back from the hawkish obsessions to go for an assault against Pakistan.

The second evident reason is that India has found no concrete evidence and proof of Pakistan’s involvement in the Uri attack. India itself messed up so much that all the knee-jerk allegations and claims made by some of its top officials and leaders to implicate Pakistan flew in the face of even common sense. Finally, the defence ministry has to issue a gag order to the press, a contemptible move by all standards, which showed that the government wanted only the “officially certified truth” and not the actual truth to be published and telecast. It also demonstrated that it has a lot to hide from its public.

The third perceptible ground for Modi’s going back from the extreme position is the fact that India is under immense pressure at home and abroad and has its face blackened because of the brutalities it is committing in the Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). Despite the use of brutal force it is still in no position to control the situation in the valley. There is a total revolt in IHK when there has been no interference or infiltration from Pakistan.

However, Modi’s ostensible backing down from his obsession with teaching Pakistan a lesson through his military might is no occasion for complacency by Pakistan, which has to remain extraordinarily vigilant and alert about any kind of action from a desperate person. The change of strategy expressed by Modi in his Kozhikode speech on Saturday could be a decoy, deception and cover-up of his real designs and plans. There is no denying that India will definitely hit through its lackeys in Pakistan and its neighbouring country by sponsoring terrorist activities. Islamabad is now required to be more watchful about any incursions from Afghanistan, which has fallen in the Indian lap.

Modi threatened to isolate Pakistan. But he forgot that for the past 70 years since independence, India is working hard against Pakistan but to its great bad luck and embarrassment Pakistan has been progressing and has become a nuclear power. In spite of the relentless, uninterrupted Indian struggles, Pakistan has not been isolated. When India will intensify its efforts to segregate Pakistan as warned by Modi, it will first have to answer questions about the atrocities being committed by it in IHK. Had Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and all the other power players of that time not gone for nuclear detonations in 1998, India would have conveniently attacked Pakistan more than once during the past 18 years and taught it a lesson it always dreamed. Fundamentally, it is the nuclear deterrence that has compelled India to think again and again before opting for a war with Pakistan.

It is difficult to find a single Pakistani, who doesn’t consider Modi a permanent enemy, having pathological hatred against Pakistan. He lived in a fool’s paradise when he directly spoke to Pakistanis during his Kozhikode speech and tried to incite them against the security establishment and rulers.

As usual, there were laudatory comments by Indian writers in their analyses of Modi’s Kozhikode speech. But they also reflected the fear of damage that a war will do to India.
One of them said that a protracted war will cost India more than it seeks to gain. A war of attrition, risk of losing a huge number of Indian personnel, risk of nuclear war are scenarios that Modi must keep as a worst case scenario and not his first line of action.

Another opined that Modi’s speech was a powerful case for strategic restraint; though addressed, as a rhetorical device, to the people of Pakistan, there’s little doubt that Modi had a message to party hawks clamouring for war; he has made clear that war isn’t on his agenda; and the speech marked a tacit acknowledgment of the long-standing doctrine of strategic restraint, which privileged growth and investment over military gains.

However, another writer posed the question: Is Modi’s ‘strategic restraint’ choice a virtue or a necessity? “Strategic restraint” would be a valid choice if India had a menu of viable military options available to it to choose from and exercise; realistically speaking, with the risks of conflict escalation between two nuclear neighbours, there are hardly any viable military options available to India; from 2001, when Indian armed forces were mobilised following the terror attack on Parliament, to 2008, when India considered but discarded the option of surgical strikes after the Mumbai terror strikes, the attendant risks of a military response to Pakistan outweigh the benefits; all Indian political leaders have come to the same conclusion and Modi has been no different. It looks different because of his pre-premier days rhetoric, but like his predecessors, Modi really did not have a choice but to exercise “strategic restraint”. As former RAW chief Vikram Sood said on Twitter, strategic restraint “is a cover-up” when no “option for strategic action exists”. As long as we don’t have clarity on our political aims, we will have to hide behind the jargon of choosing “strategic restraint”. This restraint after Uri is neither strategic nor a matter of choice. It is a burden of necessity.

After the apparent change of course of action, Modi, during his monthly radio address on Sunday, tried to placate the Indian army, which is receiving constant beating in IHK, saying while politicians speak, military shows bravery and “we are proud of our Army. Only a stupid Kashmiri will pay any heed to his assertion that the people in Kashmir, who want peace and normalcy to return, have begun recognising anti-state players there. He still doesn’t recognize that what is happening in IHK is indigenous.


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