War is not the answer

September 15, 2019

The unexpected and provocative revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution that had created a special legal niche for Indian-occupied Kashmir has conveniently added another Modi-esque layer...

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The unexpected and provocative revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution that had created a special legal niche for Indian-occupied Kashmir has conveniently added another Modi-esque layer of virulence and complexity to the Kashmir imbroglio.

A crude manifestation of Narendra Modi’s insolence, an illegal presidential decree issued on August 5, 2019 revoked the constitutional package that guaranteed special rights to Occupied Kashmir. Direct rule from New Delhi has now been imposed upon Kashmir unilaterally thereby rendering the Simla Agreement redundant.

The violent protests that erupted in Kashmir as a consequence of the revocation were, as per the standard Indian army playbook, suppressed with characteristic cruelty. Thousands of additional troops had already been deployed to smother unrest in one of the world’s most heavily militarised zones. Much to the glee of right-wing Hindutva zealots, Kashmir has now become India’s very own Alcatraz.

In a world that has come to be characterized by unabashed power-projection, sabre-rattling, and contempt for diplomatic nuances, a veritable coup d’état has been launched against the hapless Kashmiris. Modi, a subtle passive-aggressive communalist, an adroit hate-monger and a finger-wagging bully has not only pushed Kashmir deeper into the quagmire of misery and gore but has also brought into a sharper relief the fear that the 72-year old territorial dispute could trigger a nuclear Armageddon in the region.

Being a party to the Kashmir conundrum, Pakistan needs to come up with an appropriate response to this brash violation of international law. Some quarters opine that Islamabad should immediately unleash a decisive blitzkrieg in order to liberate Kashmir. Apart from our illustrious foolish fringe that churns out this narrative ad infinitum, there are many well-meaning people in this country as well who believe that the annexation of Kashmir can be efficiently undone through military means.

There is some emotional method in this madness. For the average Pakistani, Kashmir is not merely a territorial tangle between two neighbouring states: it’s a subject that generates intense emotional stress. Both in public perception and discourse, phrases like Kashmir liberation, brutal Indian repression, and death and mayhem almost invariably dovetail with words like war and jihad. The long drawn-out freedom struggle in Kashmir and the sacrifices of the Kashmiris have become prominent facets of the nation’s collective historical consciousness.

Be that as it may, war is a legitimate instrument of policy that contemporary states could employ to thwart aggression or resolve a dispute that threatens to undermine their territorial integrity. However, war is never an answer to a given crisis if it cannot be won or if it cannot resolve the crisis owing to which it was started. In this particular sense, every war, even a just war, is itself a crisis that requires an independent and consummate resolution paradigm.

The formulation of a mature state’s response to an issue as historically volatile and as emotionally explosive as Kashmir should invariably depend on certain mental processes applied institutionally: examination of the issue in a rigorously rational manner, a thorough assessment of the ground realities, a deep analysis of the whole gamut of legitimate responses available, identification of the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, estimated quantum of losses, and a strictly reason-based appraisal of the short-term and long-term consequences of the war. It must also be ascertained whether the gross gains of a war outweigh its net losses. Likewise, it must be established that instant gains from a war as an issue-resolving device are substantially more than the potential gains from other relatively sluggish tools of change like diplomacy, mediation, adjudication and arbitration.

Several state institutions fashion and furnish their professional input to the state in this regard which becomes part of the intricate process of decision-making. This is dubbed as a structured decision-making process which ensures that decisions regarding wars are taken impersonally, responsibly, rationally, realistically and on the basis of accurate cost-benefit analyses based on up-to-date information. By employing this process, states avoid irrational knee-jerk reactions and sentimental gimmickry. Caution, insightfulness and wisdom should always accompany decisions about wars that impact millions of lives.

Prime Minister, Imran Khan, was spot on when in the aftermath of the revocation of Article 370, he stated that all wars in world history had been miscalculated and that those who started a war did not know where it would end. COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa has also correctly asserted that we should now struggle to eliminate poverty and illiteracy. These words contain wisdom that has eluded us for ages.

The Pakistan government’s policy of organising peaceful protests at home and abroad, exposing India’s state-backed terrorism in Kashmir, and mounting a suave diplomatic offensive against New Delhi in important world capitals and at the UN is a policy that can win dividends.

Wars should never be fought because of emotional reasons or as a means of alleviation of mental pain. Wars cannot mitigate pain; they always add to its intensity. Wars cannot give birth to peace; they only deliver more wars. Sun Tzu in his magnum opus, ‘The Art of War’, stated that victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

The writer is a global affairs, public policy and security analyst, and a senior civil servant.

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