Not engaging Pak militarily right move

Not engaging Pak militarily right move

The common theme that ran through Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at a public rally in Kozhikode on Saturday and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s address to the UN General Assembly on Monday was that there are better options
than military action against Pakistan in the wake of the terrorist attack in Uri. The prime minister was making his first public statement after the incident and the minister was replying to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s attack on India over Kashmir at the same forum. They tried to place the challenges before India and Pakistan in a larger context of economic development and welfare. As for dealing with Pakistan, both presented that country as an important source and centre of terrorism which is proved by incidents in India and elsewhere. As speeches meant for a national audience and the international community, they had the right combination of policy positions and attitudes which could not be faulted. In that context, the prime minister did well to talk to the people of Pakistan, who are also victims of terrorism.

One important inference from the speeches is that India is not thinking of military action and eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation as possible and effective solutions to the crisis that has developed in their bilateral relations. This may have disappointed the political mob and other jingoistic sections, including those in the
media, which have been shouting for immediate retaliatory action with a jaw for a tooth. Even Narendra Modi had called for such action when he was in the opposition. While a government, which is responsible for national security and the safety of the lives of its citizens, cannot rule out any action in times of crisis, war and direct confrontation are not the first priority in any situation, especially when the conflict can easily get out of hand.

The thinking in the Indian government seems to favour creating international pressure on Pakistan and to isolate it diplomatically. There was, in the responses from the government, a political attack on the Pakistan government and institutions and forces that encourage or practice terrorism. All this shows a maturity and sense of restraint that should guide policy and action even in the face of worst provocation. Repeated provocations from Pakistan may have disabused the government of simplistic notions of solutions. A hard-nosed assessment of the post-Uri situation may also have given it a sense of reality. India still has many options. It should be realised that the military option, whose results are uncertain, closes all other options. It also sets back both countries in their advance to the really important national goals of development. This realisation is important for both countries.


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