After the deadliest attack on Indian security forces in Kashmir in the recent years, the whole nation rose up as one, condemning the terror strike and demanding a hard-hitting military response to the attack .”A complete jaw for a tooth is what we will take”, said the ruling BJP’s national secretary, Ram Madhav. He continued,”Days of so-called strategic restraint are over”. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the nation that those behind this act will not go unpunished. #UriAttack was trending on Twitter, and Facebook was ringing with people asking for retaliation and cross-border ‘surgical’ strikes. However we need to ask: Is nationalistic rhetoric going to take India anywhere? Is the military option going to stop all these attacks? Does India even have the capability to escalate and effectively respond to this conflict? Let’s analyse…
First things first, war is not an option.I have little doubt about the capability and expertise of our armed forces. There, of course, will be a cost to India’s exercising these options. But then, as some argue, isn’t India already bearing the costs? But mind that the costs associated with a full-scale war cannot be reckoned in peacetime. The first casualty of an all-out war would be India’s ‘fastest growing economy in the world’ tag. An all-out war with India will definitely destroy Pakistan, however at the same time it will also push India’s economy back by a decade. Add countless civilian deaths and probability of a nuclear retaliation to the mix, and we can easily realise that it is really not worth it. India is currently poised for high economic growth with analysts calling India the ‘next China’. Are we really ready to risk all we have achieved in the past decade to restore our national pride? I do not think so. So does this mean that we should adopt our signature “good neighbour, responsible nation” policy again? Not necessarily…
To start with, India can retaliate diplomatically. The need of the hour is to isolate Pakistan at every international forum, sending a clear message that when the world community has an option between India and Pakistan, it will always be India. Ask the UN Security Council to put sanctions on Pakistani state supported terrorist leaders like Hafiz Saeed and Dawood Ibrahim. Economic retaliation is also a good way to express India’s displeasure with Pakistan’s supporting terror groups in Kashmir. India can revoke the Most Favored Nation (MFN) status it has bestowed upon Pakistan. Remember, India and Pakistan do not have big trade relations, thus the effect of such responses will be minimal on either country. However it is the ‘message’ that counts. Politically, Prime Minister Narendra Modi can boycott the SAARC summit in Islamabad this November. The government can make Pakistan nervous by declaring the Indus Water Treaty non-enforcable. There are tonnes of non-military options to pressurize Pakistan.
People need to realise that this is not the 20th century where wars were not considered a taboo. India has done a lot to nurture its image as a stable, democratic major power. However for those who still insist that Pakistan won’t ‘understand’ until India retaliates militarily, here is good news for you. India’s economy is growing by 7.5% year-on-year. If the defence spending of India increases by 5% every year simultaneously, by 2030, India’s defence budget will be 25 times greater than that of Pakistan. India will be in a much better position to give a be-fitting reply to Pakistan. And Pakistan would understand the consequences of adopting terroism as an instrument of state policy.
Lastly, but most importantly, government officials need to control their tongues. Rash rhetoric by senior government officials often makes the government a victim of its own words. These statements arouse national sentiment and public anger, which then cannot be ignored. Now take for example the Uri Attacks: The Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Defence Minister gave inflammatory and vitriolic statements against Pakistan within hours of the attacks. Now, just about everyone from journalists to retired members of the armed forces to bureaucrats to diplomats and, of course, politicians are talking about “options” to respond with. One of the main reasons for the victory of BJP in 2014 general elections was the fact that Narendra Modi was considered to be a ‘muscle-man’ who would take a stong stance against Pakistan and China. Now many people are feeling disillusioned. Some are calling for the resignation of the Defence Minister. Under such immense pressure, we can only hope that the government doesn’t respond with a rash knee-jerk reaction.
Just because I am strong enough to take your hardest punch.. Doesn’t mean I can’t hit back.
Note:- All the opinions stated in the above article are the author’s own.