Fifth column: No more strategic restraint

As things stand, the military men who control that country and the religious fanatics they have nurtured know well that if there is peace with India, their time is up.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: October 7, 2016 1:11 pm
india pakistan, india pakistan war, india terrorism, pakistan terrorism, kashmir, kashmir india, kashmir pakistan, uri attack, surgical strikes , india pakistan border, india pakistan loc, indo pak, indo pak border India shows that it has the political will and the ability to respond aggressively when attacked. (Source: Reuters)

NO idea has failed India more spectacularly in its relations with Pakistan than ‘strategic restraint’. And yet, it seemed in the past week that this was the road the Prime Minister would take once more. After his speech at the BJP meeting in Kozhikode, strategic restrainers applauded loudly. Men and women who despise Narendra Modi came forward to praise him for not listening to ‘hawks’ (like your columnist) and for changing the narrative of war to one in which the fight in both India and the Islamic Republic next door would be against poverty, illiteracy and disease. A fine thought but one that can only become reality, in our shamefully backward region, if we succeed in convincing Pakistan to invest in peace and not war.

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As things stand, the military men who control that country and the religious fanatics they have nurtured know well that if there is peace with India, their time is up. So they have promoted hatred, violence and war by all sorts of cowardly means for decades, and in India, our leaders have repeatedly taken the path of ‘strategic restraint’. They have done this knowing that this road has led nowhere. But perhaps not fully understanding how often ‘strategic restraint’ has been interpreted by Pakistan’s military rulers as cowardice. All of last week, Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif preened before TV cameras, threatening to use tactical nuclear weapons if India dared to do what it ended up doing. It required enormous political will on the part of Prime Minister Modi to order our soldiers to cross the Line of Control into occupied Kashmir to target terrorist camps.

Pakistan responded as it always does, with denial. It is a pattern that we have long been familiar with. In the Kargil war, the Pakistanis who died wore military dog tags that identified them as regular troops but Pakistan continues to refuse to accept this. After the 26/11 attacks, our strategically restrained leaders provided dossiers and voice samples and whatever else was needed by way of proof. Pakistan dismissed these testaments as rubbish. In Pathankot, the men who attacked the Air Force base were identified as having come from across the border and the Indian government thought it had so good a case it allowed Pakistani intelligence officers an inspection tour. It made no difference.

As someone who believes that there will only be peace between India and Pakistan when India shows that it has the political will and the ability to respond aggressively when attacked, I have been ashamed of the strategic restraint we have shown in the past. When media pressure forced Atal Bihari Vajpayee to release evil men in exchange for the passengers of IC-814, I hoped that we would seek out Maulana Azhar Masood and Omar Sheikh and ‘take them out’ as the Americans call it. Why could Indian Air Force fighter planes not have bombed their jeep on the road from Kandahar to Pakistan? Why after 26/11 have we not been able to find Hafiz Saeed in his vast lair on the edge of Lahore and rid the world of a truly evil man?

Indian officials admit privately that we lack the ‘assets’ needed for covert operations, but since they have been saying this for at least 20 years, it is very hard to understand why they have not yet been developed. It is even harder to understand why we allowed men like Maulana Masood Azhar and Omar Sheikh to rot in Indian jails for more than five years before we were forced to release them. Is our justice system so defunct that it cannot even speed up justice in cases of jihadi terrorism? The answer to this question probably lies in the shameful truth that it took more than 20 years for justice to be done in the Mumbai bombings of 1993. And even then, justice has not fully been done because Tiger Memon continues to live happily ever after in Karachi. If journalists can track him down so easily, it should be quite easy for trained commandos to track him down, but somehow this never happens.

So Pakistan’s military men, who see India as an ‘existential threat’, treat with utter disdain the strategic restraint of our political leaders. Their disdain has grown as they have seen senior Indian politicians refuse to admit publicly that Islamism has become a huge threat to all the values that make India what India is. The same people incidentally become hysterically voluble when it comes to condemning the activities of cow vigilantes. Since Modi became prime minister, our politically correct media has made more fuss about incidents of cow vigilantism than we have over jihadi attacks.

Meanwhile, I have no hesitation in admitting that last week’s ‘surgical strikes’ pleased me enormously and I hope they signal the end of strategic restraint.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

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  1. I
    indian
    Oct 2, 2016 at 12:52 pm
    Awesome! Nice to see a columnist not peddling the PC line.
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    1. R
      Ravi
      Oct 2, 2016 at 2:36 pm
      This is an excellent article by writer. She writes without holding horses. She has identified the issue with our judicial and political system which allow things to take their own course. Had it been with Israel , all the terrorists responsible for attacks on Indian territory would have been wiped out without media talking about it. Sofar our politicians , media and intellectuals have looked at short term goal of remaining in power by buying time and postponing the decision of confronting enemy with force. Every one knows that this is the only solution but it has been left for some one like Mr Modi to take on. If this government also does not exercise that option, problem of terrorism will go out of hand and there will be only chaos in the country.
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      1. G
        Garg
        Oct 2, 2016 at 2:27 am
        Only sane voice in IE.
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        1. M
          Mahesh
          Oct 2, 2016 at 5:54 pm
          Breaking news...fresh incident in Barmullah...gun fire near indian army camp...
          Reply
          1. S
            SubbuI
            Oct 2, 2016 at 8:16 am
            Hi JIM. WHY DON'T YOU TELL ME HOW YOU EAT YOU MOME MADE MEDU WADA? WITH LIGHTS ON OR OFF
            Reply
            1. S
              SubbuI
              Oct 2, 2016 at 6:05 am
              MADAM TALVEEN SINGH IS AS USUAL CROWING MODI BAJAN AFTER LITTLE BIT OF CRITISIZING OF HER HERO. LIKE WE TELL THE STUDENT THAT YOU COULD HAVE SCORED IN EARLIER EXAM TOO. FOR A CHANGE SHE HAS NOT REDICULED MADAM SONIA HER SOUTEN AND DR N MAN MOHAN SINGH WHO SHE TREATS LIKE KACHA LIMBU. THE WRITTER IS SO ARROGANT IN FORCING HER VIEWS AS IF OTHERS VIEWS ARE NON SENSE.
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              1. A
                Abhishek
                Oct 2, 2016 at 2:41 pm
                Ever heard of saam-daam-dand-bhed?
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                1. A
                  Aditya
                  Oct 2, 2016 at 1:53 am
                  Tavleen Singh your articles are to the mark. God give you strength to write like this and opportunities to succeed immensely so other useless writers. There are so many anti-national writers that I feel ashamed. Recently I went to read on about there I saw an article by Indian Journalist Sanjay Kumar from Delhi criticizing India for surgical attacks.
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                  1. V
                    Vidhu
                    Oct 2, 2016 at 10:13 am
                    Validity of restraint has expired. This is the time to avenge all terror attacks; 1993, 2001, 2008, 2015, 2016. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt; stan has to keep restraint. Any escalation will tie Pak Army with Talibans. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt; India has chance to strike again till all terrorist factories across the border. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt; Army has all freedom from Modi to plan and attack to achieve target.
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                    1. H
                      Hard Talk
                      Oct 2, 2016 at 2:21 pm
                      In larger picture, Jihad started by Maulana Modudi continues. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt; Islamic Atomic Bomb is bound to go into hands of Jihadis. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt; Modi's close friend Nawaz was looking for a successor to Rahil Sharif due to retire in November. Now, Nawaz will make way for Rahil Sharif to take over as President. We can hear it at any moment. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt; Modi will get to talk to his real counterpart in stan. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt; India's Army need to achieve the target before that. Choices will be limited after Civilian govt in stan makes way for Army. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt; Madam Tavleen in her over zealousness to praise Modi has ignored many possibilities. Of course she is just a columnist not supposed to look into aspects that can go contrary to get views.
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                      1. A
                        aji govinda
                        Oct 2, 2016 at 1:24 pm
                        strategic restraint was an expression coined to fool the Indian potion to cover up for the lack of will, lack of courage, the lazy officialdom and incompetence of the civil bureaucrats , defence officials and the political leadership of that time. And i include the stupidity and naivete of Mr.Vajpayee in it. To this day i cannot get why he didnt allow the Air force to cross our Airspace for strikes during the Kargil war. this kind of gstanding only cost us more Indian lives !!lt;br/gt;Thank you Tavleen for hitting the nail on the head , repeatedly !!
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                        1. A
                          Alankar
                          Oct 2, 2016 at 5:32 pm
                          Right from beginning of it'a term, present BJP govt has followed the policy of jumping to a new propaa whenever any issue starts haunting them. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt; Intolerance to beef /akhlaq to cow protection to Vyapam to Rohit Vemula to JandK to Una to surgical strike.
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                          1. A
                            Anjan
                            Oct 3, 2016 at 4:39 am
                            Both offer a suious public an alternate to patriotism - hatred of the other country, it's majority religion.
                            Reply
                            1. A
                              Astick Shukla
                              Oct 2, 2016 at 7:04 am
                              Politically incorrect but honest and truthful opinion. This is only one column in Indian express which is refreshing to read.
                              Reply
                              1. B
                                Bakumbai
                                Oct 14, 2016 at 10:02 pm
                                Excellent article
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                                1. B
                                  Bakumbai
                                  Oct 2, 2016 at 6:14 pm
                                  Excellent article.
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                                  1. B
                                    Babu Pillai
                                    Oct 2, 2016 at 1:24 am
                                    Almost all politicians lie. Journalist also have a large percentage of folks among them who tend to serve only their personal interests and lie most of the time. Tavleen is an exception. FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE COUNTRY, WE NEED MORE LIKE HER AND I APPRECIATE HER COLUMNS THAT PROVIDE NARRATIVE ON NATIONAL INTERESTS WITH COMMON SENSE.
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                                      Bir Chilarai
                                      Oct 2, 2016 at 3:20 pm
                                      It seems (and I sincerely hope) that India is now systematically taking stan apart at the seams by all means possible. The CPEC has been rendered a fairy tale as the Chinese now understand that both ends are mired in quicksand and the middle in territory that India will vociferously demand as its own. "Brother" Islamic countries Afgahanistan and Bangladesh are baying for stan's blood. All major countries have trashed stan for being a terror haven. Balochistan, Sind and PoK have been put on the front burner and the heat turned on. The surgical strikes in PoK have not brought stan any support, not even from China, perhaps because to the s, it didn't even happen but the message has gone home. Finally, the Indus Waters are being dangled in the air to show stan how totally vulnerable and impotent it is and how dependent on Indian goodwill or lack of it. How long stan exists in its current form is debatable if this pincers is maintained and increased.
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                                      1. C
                                        Col S
                                        Oct 2, 2016 at 2:38 am
                                        It was not restraint but LEDAERS With NO CAPAITY for RISK and DECISION making.Country was VICTIM of their BLANK HEAD as there was no PLANNING but FEAR . psychosis.Happy having DOZENS of security around them as VIP SECURITY.lt;br/gt;L AWMAKERS are only retested in making their FIEFDOM safe and WIDENED.lt;br/gt;Country could have TEN years of PEACE if ACTED earlier.
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                                        1. R
                                          Rohit Shah
                                          Oct 2, 2016 at 6:28 pm
                                          This feku's government is making last ditch efforts to survive full term. Elections in UP and Punjab will show him mirror. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt; All his election promises proved only gimmicks. Now he wants to grab the credit for superb job done by our Army at opportune moment.
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                                          1. J
                                            JJJackxon
                                            Oct 7, 2016 at 8:21 am
                                            You are incorrect. India has NOT conducted surgical strikes of this magnitude, complexity and planning ever before in stan. The previous actions were Line Of Control tactical responses, called "badlah," localized and spontaneous. Again, no, India has never actively and materially supported the Baloch struggle despite the enormous goodwill the Baloch toward India, just as Tibetans do, just as Sindhis do, just as Pashtuns do. So, indeed, India's strategic restraint was merely putting lipstick on a pig. It was the defining of our lack of strategic thinking and strategic capabilities.
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