Prime Minister Narendra Modi has handled the Uri terrorist attack and the subsequent tension between India and Pakistan with great political astuteness. The prime minister nursed the wounds of an angry India with a commitment to giving Pakistan a befitting reply after the attack that killed 19 Indian soldiers. The PM weighed his options and exercised strategic restraint at a time when public sentiment demanded immediate military retaliation on Pakistan.
A prime minister can’t act in response to public furore; he must listen to advice from his service chiefs and then factor in the collateral damage accompanied by war. It seems that is what PM Modi has done. During his address in Kozhikode at the BJP national convention meeting, PM Modi changed the core thrust idea of popular public discourse on Pakistan. He endorsed economic growth and strategic restraint while attempting to change public opinion in Pakistan on India and the Pakistani government. This stance gives assurance that India has a highly competent captain at the country’s helm.
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Although the Pakistani media has played down the PM’s words and not given much coverage to his direct address to the Pakistani public, no Pakistani will dispute that Pakistan’s defence and foreign policy is dictated by Rawalpindi and not Islamabad. This weakness in elected Pakistani governments is repeatedly shown in every regime. PM Modi is now fighting the war on an entirely new battleground, the ideological transformation of the Indian public and that of the Pakistani public towards India. It appears that he now seeks to show the Pakistani public that their governments and military have exploited them and brainwashed them for decades in order to perpetuate tense relations with India.
In volatile times, every right decision doesn’t mean approval of the masses. But, in this instance PM Modi has taken the brave stand which means drawing flak from critics as a non-acting leader. Hardliners terming the government’s stand as apologist must understand that it is the army which risks marching into a battlefield that may turn nuclear in split seconds. The PM’s stand to give Pakistan a befitting reply and his insistence on exercising strategic restraint against a hostile Pakistan reiterates his government’s commitment to keeping the Indian economy on the growth path while avoiding loss of lives that accompany war.
India and Pakistan have gone to war thrice, however, India’s adversary still poses threats that need to be controlled in the form of counter-terrorism, counter-infiltration and strong economic growth. A protracted war will cost India more than it seeks to gain. A war of attrition, risk of losing a huge number of Indian personnel, risk of nuclear war are scenarios that a PM must keep as a worst case scenario and not his first line of action.
The army and intelligence forces must now do their bit to neutralise chances of any further threats. However, PM Modi’s statement that India is already winning the war and India leads Pakistan in terms of growth and economic prowess is a statement that will remain at the centre of discussion among Pakistani masses in the coming days.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s inability to independently take security decisions for his country undermines the security situation for India as well. Notably, as General Raheel Sharif’s term nears an end, the situation seems similar to when former Pakistan president and ex army chief Pervez Musharraf encouraged nuclear war with India. Sharif had subsequently lost power after a military coup. PM Modi would have factored all situations and the current balance of forces as it stands prevents further damage to India.