How much war and how much militarization our society can accept must be decided by the people and not through sinister games orchestrated by few
Every move we make in fear of the next war in fact hastens it.
Since the beginning of this year, Rajouri, Mendhar, Poonch and Uri sectors have been witness to repeated incidents of senseless violence, accompanied by equally vociferous debates on news networks. Each incident has left the government more embarrassed. On the other hand, the army, despite inept border management, has ended gaining greater autonomy for local commanders to manage border incidents, including the right to retaliate with maximum force.
The media has been constantly accusing the government of timidity in its policy towards China and Pakistan. The government on the other hand is trapped in a “double bind”. It cannot openly chide the military for its incompetence nor can it afford to grant the military greater independence in border management, which impacts significantly on foreign policy. The result is that the government’s choices have reduced and it gets the blame whatever the option chosen.
Defence minister Antony’s flip flop on the issue of who killed the five Indian soldiers in the Poonch sector in the August 6 incident, actually conforms with the “double bind” theory where the “victim” gets embroiled in a communicational matrix, where every message contradicts the first and all utterances only generate negativity.
A persistent fusillade of accusations, communication chaos and “black propaganda” is being used to push the government deeper into a situation where it will have no other option but to plunge the nation into war either with Pakistan or China. An environment is being created where the Indian state will either relinquish democratic control over the conduct of the military arm and hand it over to hawkish uniformed officers and their allies within civil society – notably the retired generals who have nothing to lose and much to gain from arms dealerships and contracts -- or develop schizophrenic tendencies that eventually manifest in the form of panic or rage.
It is hard to imagine that five young Indians boys had to sacrifice their lives just to prevent the two prime ministers from having a convivial meeting, perhaps over pomegranate juice, at New York. The senseless killings in Poonch were not the work of some uneducated non-state actors. It was ordered by Pakistani generals, graduates of American War College and military academies.
Unfortunately, Pakistan’s insanity was matched by the naïveté of forty former Indian soldiers, spies and babus, who have signed a joint statement asking the Indian government to adopt a tough military stance against Pakistan. The situation has reached such a pass that even outside powers have started hinting at a possible war. In a recent interview, Marie Harf, the US State Department spokesperson said that it would be “getting ahead” of events on the ground to suggest that South Asia was moving towards yet another war between nuclear-armed neighbours.” To use Arthur Sibler’s words, for these so-called nationalists, “war dead are props used to purify and sanctify the ongoing and future campaigns of slaughter, in an endless procession of slaughters throughout history. The war dead are especially useful, since they have been rendered forever mute; they are unable to tell us the truth of what they endured, or about the lies for which they died.”
Mutilated young men and wailing war-widows is what warmongers seek to satiate the machinery of war. They refuse to use their minds to create conditions for a reduction of violence. They demand memorials not to honour the brave-hearts but to further militarise society. For them poverty and unemployment are healthy because it ensures uninterrupted supplies to military manpower markets. They demand valorous men not for national security but to protect a notion of nationhood that is entirely about territory, not people. The retired Indian hawks who are now demanding more war had given similar policy prescriptions while they were in service. Despite the endless list of war-widows and war wounded, they refuse to introspect on the ultimate futility of the five wars that India has fought since independence. But how does one expect these warriors of primetime television to value human lives when their minds are programmed to think property and profits?
The shameless use of dead-soldiers for political purposes is abominable. However, more shocking is the use of beheaded and mutilated-soldiers to alter the civil-military relations in the country. The border incidents are being used to vilify and embarrass the government more than targeting the enemy. It is intriguing - this year’s three major incidents on the northern borders have exacerbated the existing acrimony between the army and the government. And all three occasion have displayed the emerging fissures in the Indian polity.
There are only two players that wish to see the national military stand apart from the Indian state. The first is the frustrated right wing conservatives who don’t see power flowing into their hands through the democratic route. For them a disenchanted military is a must to catapult them to power. In addition, the talk of masculinity and manhood also helps them reinforce notions of patriarchy that their social and political identity is built on.
An Indian military estranged from the state is also an outcome that the besieged superpower, the U.S., would greatly appreciate. It has been very cumbersome for the U.S. to take Indian military personnel out on expeditionary assignments and junkets in support of its imperial agenda, since the rules of civilian supremacy in force require that permission be granted by the elected government. The Pentagon has to follow procedures in its home turf, but intensely dislikes the procedures it encounters elsewhere, which it dismissively describes as “red tape”. It would prefer to deal with the Indian military in about the same way that it deals with the Pakistan military. Through the military-media games recently launched in India, it seems that there is a clear agenda from an as yet unidentified quarter of the global power matrix, to produce an Indian version of a Musharraf or a Mubarak.
The Writer is a Research Scholar at the School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi