Belligerent, bellicose or beleaguered?

Did they cross the Indo-Myanmar border? Did they kill several terrorists?

Did they or didn’t they? Did they cross the Indo-Myanmar border? Did they kill several terrorists? Had they informed the Myanmar Government in advance about their actions? Were those allegedly killed actually the same group that had attacked the 6 Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army in Manipur; and killed 18 of our brave soldiers?

Why was there no hue and cry over the killing of our soldiers – the highest number since Kargil, when ironically the same party was in power? Lots of questions, for which answers are hard to come by.

One may recall the adage that all is fair in love and war. To that I may add that most things are also hazy in love and war. As a marriage counsellor I can say without hesitation that marital relationships are intricate and not easy to decipher; because the only witnesses in the bedroom are the protagonists themselves; whose credibility could often be suspect!

So too for war – the only witnesses in the war rooms are again the respective protagonists. There is seldom photographic evidence or independent witnesses; so one is constrained to believe whatever the respective “spokespersons” hand out to an eagerly waiting public.

We had the army “spokesperson” telling us that there was an operation “along the Indo-Myanmar border”, not across it. The Minister of Information, Col (Retd) Rajyawardhan Rathore, made a bombastic statement about the surgical strike deep in enemy territory.

The Myanmar Government claims that the operation did not occur on its sovereign territory; and the terrorists “spokesperson” now says that there were no causalities among their cadres. So whom do we believe?

The only credible information available in the public domain is that a crack unit of the 21 Para Regiment was deployed for the operation that lasted all of 30 minutes, and MI 35 helicopter gunships, capable of firing 4,000 rounds a minute, were used to decimate the terrorists while they slept in their hideouts.

While the Army itself has been reticent in its statements; it hasn’t stopped various “spokespersons “of the Indian government from expanding their chests to 56”, and belligerently making bellicose statements that India was no longer a soft state; that hot pursuit would be the order of the day; and our rogue neighbor on the western flank had better heed the warning.

Again in sharp contrast, former Army Chiefs like Gen N.C. Vij and V.P. Malik have been much more circumspect; saying that any jingoism or foolhardy acts on the Pakistan border could escalate into a full blown war. I think our present political leadership need to take several lessons in issuing statements from our brave men in olive green.

Unfortunately, military actions have seldom solved problems. In 1971 Indira Gandhi carved out Bangladesh, but we ended up with hundreds of thousands of refugees (we even had a refugee relief stamp) and a vengeful neighbor in erstwhile West Pakistan.

In 1984 the army entered the Golden Temple and Indira paid the price; followed by the massacre of thousands of Sikhs. Shortly after, her son Rajiv, after initially training the LTTE, sent the IPKF into Sri Lanka. It was left to Prime Minister V.P. Singh to withdraw the IPKF that suffered heavy causalities because it was not equipped for tackling civil war. Ironically, the self same LTTE, that Rajive had trained, assassinated him in 1991.

Bellicose “spokespersons” refer to the Israeli strike on Entebbe in Uganda in the 1970s. They forget that it was before the advent of spy satellites, satellite and mobile phones, the internet, etc. Today troop movements are picked up before they take off. Before we think of eating somebody else’s pie on the ground, we need to remember the eye in the sky; just like the “eve teaser” in an ad for CCTV cameras!

Yet others refer to the “great” USA, and how it plucked Osama bin Laden out of Pakistan. For one thing, the facts are not fully known. Secondly, it hasn’t eliminated the problem. Neither did the hanging of Saddam Hussain (the most secular of all the Muslim leaders). The USA did not learn its lessons from its wars in Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan. Each time it has come away with a bloodied nose.

Further, for all the faults of the previous UPA Government, both perceived and presumptive, we must admit that there was relative peace and calm over its 10 years in office, on the international borders, as also in the Northeast, Kashmir and the Naxal affected areas.

Unfortunately, under the present dispensation, on all these fronts, things have gone haywire. To that one may add growing disquiet among Muslim and Christian Minorities, decline in production, increase in prices and taxation, reduction in social spending; and suddenly the 56” chest slips down to become a 56” pot belly, that belies the truth.

With nothing much to showcase after one year in office, the BJP government needed something to crow about. Unfortunately its chest thumping/back slapping turned out to be a self-goal from a selfie inspired Govt!

As for Pakistan, it has reacted on predictable lines, with its own form of sabre rattling. We need to learn the lessons of history. After the Buddha smiled again at Pokhran, again under NDA rule, Pakistan retaliated with its own nuclear explosion in next to no time.

So what did we gain? In fact we lost the advantage that we held in conventional battle, because in a nuclear war there are no winners – only radioactive rubble, to trouble generations to come. Here again Gen Malik has words of wisdom when he says “Nuclear Weapons are meant to prevent wars, and not win them.”

So our belligerent and bellicose “spokespersons” would do well to learn the lessons of history and not beleaguer the nation more than they already have.

(The writer is a Gandhian social activist.)

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