Thursday, January 17, 2013

INDIA-PAKISTAN - BACK TO SQUARE ONE



Courtesy: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?239249
As a child, my mother always told me “don’t ever come home crying, if somebody hits you, give him back in the same coin”. One is sure, the basic parental wisdom is always followed by the armies of India and Pakistan, sitting on powder keg on the border. They sort out their matters locally - if one crosses the line or transgresses the cease fire norms, the other pays him back with equal ferocity. One doesn't expect them to come crying and cribbing on television channels to report the atrocities committed against them. 

However, on 08 January 2013, when the bodies of two Indian soldiers were reported to be mutilated by their Pakistani counterparts in Mendhar Sector at the Line of Control (LoC) - some sections of the Indian electronic media began crying hoarse. The pitch of mourns was so high, one felt, it was not the cease fire but the Indian army that had been violated. Listening to the television debates, one was almost convinced that the Indian army was a meek spectator to the beheading of its soldiers. 

The big question is why did the matter that was supposed to remain within the precincts of LoC, walk into the Indian drawing rooms - inflaming passions and jingoism.[1] One is not sure about the Pakistani motives in beheading the Indian soldier and escalating the tensions on the borders and derailing Indo-Pak peace talks, but one is able to discern that in India some media houses and pressure groups have tried to earn political and ideological capital from the incident. 

Based on the mood in the television studios and screens, BJP, India’s leading opposition party, thought that the slaying of soldiers was the tipping point that could trigger the much awaited India’s ‘Tahrir Square’. Not to miss out on the opportunity to capitalize on the ensuing prospects of another urban protest - the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, declared, “if his ( the slain soldier Hemraj’s) head could not be brought back, we should get at least 10 heads from their side.”[2]

As things began to get out of control, the National Security Advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon, met the opposition leaders apprising them of the need to present a united front. The meeting resulted in charting a face-saving formula, where the opposition convinced the Prime Minster to alter his stance and announce, “Can't be business as usual with Pakistan”.[3]

In the initial days, the government had tried to cool temperatures. But as emotions began to flare up, united front became a necessity, especially, because conflicting signals were emerging from the ministry of external affairs and the armed forces quarters. While the armed forces were keen to reiterate its importance on matters pertaining to national security, the foreign minister was working to dissolve the issue through diplomatic means.[4]

Some hawks in the Indian security setup (or rather chess players), who tried to use the incident as a strategic tool[5] have actually ended up exposing the chinks in the Indian armour. The handling of the incident has exposed that Indian military is now an independent constituency on foreign policy matters - a development that will surely please the Americas working tirelessly on distancing the Indian military from the state. 
Inspired by the right-wing conservative media, a friend posted on the social networking sites “Where are social networking site shenanigans hiding now, why aren't they sitting at Jantar Mantar and lighting up candles, seeking justice for the armymen dying every day on the borders...” Such was the outpouring of emotions that one felt that the Indian army would be further enfeebled if the people did not come out on the streets to protest against the Pakistani atrocities. 

Many others, who have been vying for greater militarization of the Indian society and polity, used the occasion to reiterate their old lament and suggestion that the Indian government that was callous towards the plight of soldiers should learn from the US President who is always in the forefront, “whenever the armed forces suffer a serious setback.”[6]

The building up of hysteria also suited the right wing forces that promote patriarchy. These forces were shocked by the protests against the Delhi gang rape where young boys and girls challenged patriarchy that “allows men to be either rapists or protectors, or even both,”[7]

Furthermore, the young boys drifting towards the postmodern discourse that sees male masculinity in poor light too was unpalatable to those who constantly complain that India is a soft state and “India and Indians have had ambivalence about projecting strength. There is a tendency towards softness and sentimentality.”[8]

In the drama, enacted mainly on the television screens, “Journalism was the first casualty of war”. The truth was tossed around to flare up jingoism and the “falsehood of war” was used miserably to vitiate the atmosphere for political, ideological and commercial reasons.





[1] Shivam Vij, “In Multiples of Ten Ravanas”, Kafila, January 16, 2013, http://kafila.org/2013/01/16/in-multiples-of-ten-ravanas/

[2] Ravish Tiwari, As Sushma Swaraj calls for ‘10 heads’ from Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reaches out to BJP”, The Indian Express, 15 January 2013, http://www.indianexpress.com/news/as-sushma-swaraj-calls-for--10-heads--from-pakistan-prime-minister-manmohan-singh-reaches-out-to-bjp/1059464/

[3] “Can't be business as usual with Pak: Prime Minister”, NDTV, http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/news/can-t-be-business-as-usual-with-pak-prime-minister-to-ndtv/261949
[4] “Salman Khurshid downplays Army chief's stern message to Pak, says govt will handle the crisis”, http://in.news.yahoo.com/video/salman-khurshid-downplays-army-chiefs-124041479.html 
[5] Brahma Chellaney, “Is it time for India to inject greater realism into its Pakistan policy?” The Economic Times, 10 January, 2013, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/is-it-time-for-india-to-inject-greater-realism-into-its-pakistan policy/articleshow/17960866.cms?intenttarget=no 
[6] B Raman, “Neglect of welfare and Honour of Ex-Servicemen” http://ramanstrategicanalysis.blogspot.in/2013/01/neglect-of-welfare-honour-of-ex.html 

[7] Inderpal Grewal, “Protests Against Rape in India: Can the Myth of Male Protection Be Shaken?” Huff Post , World, 9 January, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/inderpal-grewal/india-bus-rape_b_2368032.html
[8] Narayan Ramachandran, “Contours of India’s national security”, Pragati, December 14, 2012, http://pragati.nationalinterest.in/2012/12/contours-of-indias-national-security/