The unending Indian claims and celebrations about the “surgical strike” Sept 28 across the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir and the Pakistani refutations that any such intrusion happened across what they call the “working boundary” are transiting from the tiresome to the comic. That the Modi government chose to make the punitive response to the Uri attack by PoK-staged terrorists such a big deal suggests two things: One that the Indian Army and military generally have such a low bar for achievement and are so starved of any operational success that even the smallest, meanest, actions are blown out of proportion as full-scale victories in major war. Sure enough, between the Indian cross-LoC op described as a “befitting” response, and Pakistanis, including General Raheel Sharif promising a “befitting” reply to any further Indian intrusions, the exchange has settled into a verbal fusillade from both sides of “befitting” responses.
It only proves the point I have long made in my writings that India-Pakistan military encounters are unserious kerfuffles. Neither side can really generate either the popular enthusiasm or the effort for a real war! Indians and Pakistanis, cut from the same cloth, are too much into each other, too much part of each other, to credibly sustain enmity of the hard kind, notwithstanding the mullahcracy on that side and the Hindutva-wadis on this side. Whence India-Pak “wars” are dismissed by most major countries as periodic eruptions of little consequence, like seasonal boils on skin. Except, with Pakistanis time and again bringing up the threat of use of tactical nukes, these encounters are now jokes with an edge.
But, how credible is the prospect of Pakistani initiation of nuclear weapons use when the outcome for that country is sure and certain extinction? So, N-use is practiced nonsense Islamabad purveys only because it finds that the Indian government, which is never able to hold its nerve in a crisis (attacks on Parliament, Mumbai, etc), is easily rattled at the slightest mention of Nukes. So why shouldn’t the Pakistanis brandish this “Allah ki dain”?
But let’s get back to getting real, and the usual Ind-Pak contretemps.
True, the prime minister advised his colleagues and fellow BJP-partymen to stop their chest-thumping. But he did so more than a week after the event, by when a hysterical media, TV in particular, had gone bonkers, with hyperbolic patriotism. Who can stop the Times Now 9PM anchor from screeching and screaming his head off and trying desperately to induce a heart-attack or a blood clot in himself? (Had the novel experience of sitting mute in one edition of this program after an initial innocuous interjection as all the invitees were imitating the anchor in out-shouting each other.) The mystery about why Pakistanis, some of them reputable, subject themselves to insulting behaviour of Indian TV comperes was, however, clarified to me. The Pakistanis are paid US$1,000 for each appearance. That is a cool 80,000 Pakistani rupees for agreeing to become targets for ten minutes of harangue. Two appearances a month will heftily increase the monthly income. Pakistanis being nobody’s fools, more and more of them want to be seen on Indian TV, as a means of bolstering their hard currency earnings, and burnishing their own nationalist credentials by trying to act more outrageous than the anchor. So much for Indians and Pakistanis engaging in public debate.
What apparently has hurt Islamabad to the quick was the CNN-associated Indian channel playing an obviously Indian Intel-given tape of conversation picked up between a Special Branch “SP” in PoK and “IG, (Pak) Punjab” about Pakistani fatalities from Indian SF action, adduced as evidence of the Indian action. The Pak Foreign Office spokesperson was livid, and reprimanded “the world renowned” CNN for indulging in an “unethical and fraudulent act” of disseminating disinformation, and threatened “necessary legal action”. (See http://tribune.com.pk/story/1194920/india-spreading-litany-falsehoods-coas/.) This can only happen on the subcontinent where the trivial is routinely exalted into the tremendous (to use a pet Trumpianism).
This raises the question: Why are GOI and Indian military so keen to prove the veracity of the Special Forces action when there’s very little riding on it? Had the “surgical strike” been a meaningful one deep (30-50 kms) inside PoK, and had there really been fireworks in terms of meaningful damage to the Pak army terrorist support infrastructure, there would have been reason to crow that terrorist outrages in the future would involve progressively higher cost for the Pakistan military. Such action did not take place, which makes it hard for the Modi regime to play up the Sept 28 op as other than a declaration of intention that hereafter cross-LoC retributive actions will be the norm.
Except, Pakistan answered with the strike on Baramulla, with the attackers getting away scott-free — melting away into the drakness, and there was no “befitting response” this time. So, may be what the Uri episode has actually done is lay the benchmark measured by the scale of military deaths as trigger for Indian retaliation. That’s a start because asymmetric warfare cannot be cost-free to Pakistan. The cost threshold to the Pak Army, however, needs to be raised manifold for it to prove a deterrent to GHQR (General Headquarters, Rawalpindi).