Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury
“Those who celebrate war will never fight one. Those who fight a war will never celebrate one.” Reminded an army man’s wife recently in our whatsapp group when a few members were talking aggressively on war and a ‘decisive victory’ for India against Pakistan.
So, the picture is like this.
Jaish engineered terror training and smuggling of RDX led to a Kashmiri fidayeen undertake a suicide attack which led to 43 CRPF jawans being killed in Pulwama. It is an act of terror for sure, and also a failure of Indian intelligence with regards to training, ammunition and action thereafter.
India withdraws MFN status and then carries an air strike on Jaish camps with unknown casualty figures and conflicting claims from various quarters about the exact spot, impact, damage and casualties.
Pakistan conducts a counter-attack, no casualties reported, but an Indian Wing Commander caught in Pakistani soil when India was countering it. Obviously an Indian aircraft has been shot down. India has claimed Pak F16 also being shot down though Pakistan contested it.
Now, in the two nations, a large number of media and people in genreal have started a media and whatsapp war, calling for heads of the other. A Pakistani TV anchor even claimed that Prophet Mohammad predicted this war! Some Indian anchors, in all military fatigue, turning newsrooms into war-rooms, are yelling at the top of their voice calling for revenge. One even asked for annihilation of Pakistan from the map of the world!
There are political ramifications too. Why not, as it is an election season in India?
So BJP President Amit Shah calls upon the people to vote for BJP as Modi is the only leader who can take revenge of Pulwama massacre. PM Modi himself addressed an election meet with visuals of Pulwama massacre in the background. This is blatant use of bravery and supreme sacrifice of soldiers to gain political mileage.
Some 21 opposition parties met to condemn the use of the massacre for political benefits and they have their own narrative about the entire issue though a bit confused on what should India do now next.
Three different studies by US think-tanks have over the last four years put forth reports of various scenarios of war between India and Pakistan. They have unanimously noted that a full-scale Indo-Pak war leading to nuclear use will be extremely brutal in its impact leading to loss of life up to 21 million people both nations together, complete ruin of the ozone layer in South Asia, extreme climatic changes calling for frozen times, famines, and many more. So a full-scale war is beyond question and should not be even thought of.
Another scenario of limited war where India goes on hitting ‘terror camps’ within Pakistan, Pakistan goes on giving rebuttals in some capacity, and both keep engaging each other across the border is also not a viable solution going ahead. This will keep tensions boiling on both sides, solving no problem, killing people with or without uniform in dozens, destroying property, creating a mess for civilian population on both sides of the Line of Control, and making a stable solution move further away.
India has made its intentions clear: that it can transgress air space of Pakistan to hit terror camps if need be and that is the strongest message and action since 1971. Pakistan has kept its ego intact by resorting to retaliation, hitting without killing, and getting a Wing Commander virtually as a prisoner of war.
Now, do they need prove any more points? Proving points will be to whose benefits and losses? Surely not in the interest of uniformed people fighting on ground on both sides, and civilians caught up in crossfire.
The issue is to fight terrorism, and not fight each other. And so rightly noted by the Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj.
Interesting to note that China has chided Pakistan on terror bases, US has criticised Pulwama massacre terror act, France has moved UN to declare Jaish a terrorist outfit and Azhar Masood a global terrorist, and Saudi is not singing the Pakistani tune contrary to its expectations. Iran was already critical of Pakistan on terrorism.
So the global diplomatic environment is strong for India to exploit to its advantage. And rightfully so.
Also, Pakistan, as noted by its PM, Imran Khan, is itself a victim of terrorism. Several hundred children of army-men were killed in cold blood in their school by terrorists some time earlier. Pakistan cannot handle the costs of any major escalation of war. Hence, as expected, under Pak army pressures, the civilian government of Pakistan might have first flexed muscles but now calling for dialogue, probe into terror attack in Pulwama, and discussions to end terrorism, noting that Pakistan has lost many already to terrorism.
This itself should be the starting point just now.
The world opinion being sympathetic to the Indian cause now, we must up the antenna and call for comprehensive dialogues even if it is with international observers. We must have Pulwama massacre probed and terror links established decisively. We must drive hard that peace dividend for both nations is much higher than war-mongering or proxy war by Pakistan that has continued for far too long a time now.
Alongside, within our borders, all terror structures, infra and cells need to be eliminated fast and furiously, causing minimum possible collateral damage. Radicalization of Kashmiri youths needs to be fought with positive campaign of gains of being in India, and there are many for that.
Several experts have noted that the anger of a section of the Kashmiri youth is not necessarily due to religion. It is primarily due to indignity of life under seize, lack of development, lack of hope in life and work, and lack of acceptance in the larger context of India at times. Just over the last ten days, innocent Kashmiri youths, studying in various parts of India, with faith in Indian nationhood, have been beaten up and thousands have returned to the valley.
So, a positive campaign of hope and dignity needs to also start in the valley. Their voice be allowed, elections be done to elect their government, and acceptance and its display be done proactively across India of Kashmiri youth coming to study or work elsewhere in India.
Peace is not a way, it is the only way. Modern nations must find solutions within the framework of peace or else be devastated as in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya etc. And for peace, Pakistan has to decidedly come upfront against terror camps on its soil, and we strongly away from war-mongering in election times with hopes that people focus only on Pakistan and forget every other problem that the nation is facing.
The author is a media academic and columnist, and the views expressed are his own.