It was reported in our media after a press briefing by Gen Bikram Singh, our Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), on January 14, 2013, that intruding Pakistani troops had carried out two beheadings of Indian soldiers even in 2011. For reasons unclear, neither the government of India nor the opposition nor the media chose to publicise this incident. It was kept a well-guarded secret. There was no public outrage and this incident did not impact on the on-going dialogue between the two countries.
On January 8, 2013, some Pakistani troops intruded into Indian territory in the Jammu area, killed two Indian soldiers and beheaded one of them. The details of the barbaric act were given wide publicity, discussed in no-rhetoric-barred TV debates and gave rise to public outrage and tough talk by the COAS. The opposition spearheaded by the BJP sought to exploit the public outrage for partisan political purposes.
Why this difference in our reactions to the 2011 and 2013 beheadings? The answer is simple. In 2011, the election year 2014 was far away. In 2013, it is just a few months away. There may be votes to be gained by fanning further and exploiting the public outrage. The BJP was the first to jump into the fray for indulging in the game of politicisation of the barbaric act in order to reiterate its demand, which has broad public support, for a strong response to Pakistan, even if it meant freezing of the bilateral dialogue. A number of senior retired civilian and military officers joined the war dance promoted by our TV channels. Anyone who kept out of this war dance was ridiculed as a softie.
It is against this background that one should analyse the seeming metamorphosis of our Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on January 15. On the occasion of a function to observe the annual Army Day, one saw a transformation of Dr Manmohan Singh from a man of eternal goodwill to Pakistan to one of tough talk and action.
In his chat with a group of journalists at the function, he was reported to have stated that those Pakistanis responsible for the barbaric act will have to be brought to book and that “it cannot be business as usual with Pakistan.” Simultaneously, the government chose to send three messages of a new activism on Pakistan to the Pakistani government. These were the decision to defer the implementation of the introduction of visa on arrival for senior citizens from Pakistan, premature termination of a visit of Pakistani hockey players and cancellation of the participation of Pakistani women cricketers in the world cup to be held in India.
These measures, which are inconsequential, have been projected as signs of a new toughness in the government’s attitude to Pakistan. The government has also sought to open a dialogue with the BJP towards a national consensus on our response to the barbaric act of Pakistan
The new government activism and toughness seem to be more opportunistic and tactical than genuine and strategic. Any euphoria that the government has at last woken up to the ground reality of a hostile Pakistan will be unwarranted . It is essentially a pre-poll charade to deny the BJP any pre-poll gains due to the public outrage. The charade will continue till the public outrage continues. Thereafter, we will again be back to business as usual.
A “Jaise The” (As You Were) can be prevented only by the public and the opposition continuing to keep up the pressure on the government without letting themselves be disarmed by the seeming new toughness.
While the strategic dialogue with Pakistan should continue, the government should demonstrate its earnestness by announcing some policy initiatives in consultation with the opposition. One such policy initiative will be an announcement to revive and revamp the covert action division of the intelligence community without specifically linking the action to Pakistan.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre for China Studies
I am also eagerly waiting for articles about how India's "restraint" in the current crisis actually helps us and how Manmohan SIngh brilliantly handled the crisis. May be in the next issue of Outlook. Or we can always rely on Congress Journalist Shekhar Gupta or Pratap Bhanu Mehta for such analysis.
A superb article on the subject by Arun Shourie(written before the recent killings. And yet extremely relevant).
""The latest best Indian friend of Pakistan, is Mani Shankar Aiyar." Arun Maheshwari
Mani has always been a friend of Pak. He is not the latest. That honor belongs to Salman Khurshid. What serenity in dealing with Pak!! The head of the soldier has been severed and he is talking about positive indicators from Pak!!!!!!!!! Who can be a better friend?
If somebody can confuse his mind and make him believe that it was Kejriwal who killed the two soldiers, we can see a more aggressive response.
Raman is seriously wrong in his analysis. He makes a totally unwarranted assumption that people of India will vote based on national security issues. Just 4 months after the brutal attack in Bombay in 2008, Indians voted for the same bunch in both the Center and at the State.
One can be pretty certain that the killing of Indian soldiers or the problems along the border will NOT be a factor in the mind of Indian voter.
UPA especially Congess(I), ManMohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi must be commended. The way they dealt with delligerant pakistan is a turning point in our relationship with pak. Comparing this with NDA rule(which mainly consisted of empty rhetoric and showmanship) Congress(I) showed how to deal with pak in restrained way and giving a measured response.
Even this time as a first response jaitely came out with flaccid comment that India should name and shame the culprits, whatever that means.
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