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Saturday, September 24, 2016

The PM Modi not willing to go into a war with Pakistan, sets his own terms

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public exposition at Kozhikode on Saturday, a week after the Uri attack, and his 'Mann ki Baat' on Sunday on All India Radio clearly steered the country away from war.
Modi’s conduct and his utterances on Pakistan would reflect a complete dissonance with his past outward behaviour as the chief minister of Gujarat. If you recall his "Mia Musharraf" tantrums and his claim that "Pakistan is scared of Gujarat" as the chest-thumping chief minister, you will find something amiss in his behavior as the prime minister.

How would one explain Modi’s conduct then? Perhaps Modi is one of the rarest politicians who always defies stereotypes about him. Right from his swearing-in where he surprised everyone by inviting Saarc heads of states, including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Modi’s public bonhomie with China’s president Xi Jinping at Ahmedabad was nothing short of breaking the old mould. 

Similarly, his decision to fly to Lahore to attend a private function of the Sharif household was outright audacious. And it would be na├»ve to regard these steps as guided by impulse. Modi is not known for letting the emotions get the better of him on issues of critical national importance. If one looks at the ground realities, a direct conflict with Pakistan would not overcome the problems that bedevil the relationship between the two countries. 

As a practitioner of the realpolitik, Modi is quite conscious of the fact that war has a momentum of its own and would rarely follow the predictable course. His worry emanates from the fragile condition of the internal security that exposes the country’s vital installation to terrorists’ strikes sponsored by Pakistan. 

Sources in the government admit that in his meetings with chiefs of defence forces and central police organisations (CPO), Modi showed his concern on this count, and asked them to tighten the belt. At the same time, the Uri attack also exposed the vulnerability of the army installation and the cavalier manner in which the security is being handled at various defence facilities. Apparently, the Uri attack at the brigade headquarters clearly displayed chinks in the Indian Army’s armour. 

What further complicated the situation, is the claim by local army officials of having launched an operation to neutralise 10-odd terrorists along the line of control, two days after the Uri attack. Not long ago, a similar kind of "false bravado" was claimed by the Indian army in Myanmar which subsequently proved to be untenable. In his role as Prime Minister of the country, Modi knows it better than most that war is as much a game of deception as preparedness.

It would be wrong to see his silence as a sign of equivocation. In his Kozhikode speech, he seems to be setting his own term of engagement with those in Pakistan who nurse a congenital hostility with India. He is cautious enough to point out the social fault lines in Pakistan by referring to Baloch, Pashtos, Sindhis, while skirting the issue of religiosity, which is used as critical glue by Pakistani elites and the Army to hold the nation together. By all indications, he is preparing himself for a long haul, not a quick retribution as envisaged and peddled by vacuous "jingoists" of his own party.

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