One would have expected that the robust Indian response to the Pulwama terror attack would send a wave of self-confidence through the Indian people and the commentariat. For the longest time, the countrymen have asked for an aggressive response to acts of Pakistan-inspired terror attacks, only to settle for lame diplomatic gestures.
So, when the Indian forces finally gave our neighbors a taste of what they are capable of, through the air strikes on the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camp in Balakote, it should have resulted in a unanimous approval and assertion of self-confidence.
Alas, how committed certain sections of the Indian intelligentsia are to the idea of a weak India, perpetually suffering excesses without having recourse to any kind of aggressive response, became clear in the aftermath of these spectacular operations.
On the very day – February 26th – when this action took place, some members of Indian media were busy trying to create a fear psychosis among the ordinary people about the possible reprisal from Pakistani side.
This sinister move was led by, who else, Rajdeep Sardesai on India Today. In a show featuring certain experts, he kept harping on the danger of ‘escalation’ from the other side. He was aided by some of these experts, one of whom suggested that the government had ignored strategic concerns in order to put on a big show with an eye on the upcoming elections – precisely what the likes of Imran Khan and Shah Mahmud Qureishi are claiming.
But it was only going to get worse. On Wednesday, when the Pakistanis tried to respond by sending their planes into Indian airspace, the chorus from Sardesai and co. got stronger. The capture of an Indian pilot and shooting down of a fighter jet led to even more fear-mongering by these people. They insisted that this ‘escalation’ is taking India down a dangerous path for which we are not ready.
What is shocking is the lack of strategic understanding lacked by these senior journalists whith decades of experience behind them. If India were to accept Imran Khan’s offer of a dialogue – which he made after the Pakistani authorities announced the capture of the IAF pilot, with an air of haughtiness – it would make India seem weak-kneed once again. The psychological gains of executing a successful strike in Pakistani territory would evaporate also.
The facts are crystal clear: Pakistani establishment and the Army were humiliated by the action of Indian Air Force. They needed a face-saver. War is not an option as the country is bankrupt and not capable of taking on the mighty Indian forces. So, they look for some sort of small gain that they can hold up as an assertion of their strength and their ability to match India.
Taking down an Indian jet and capturing an Indian fighter pilot is something they thought good enough to play with. Hence, after boasting about defending their airspace and shooting down an IAF fighter jet, they offered a resumption of dialogue – something that would suggest that their counter-aggression punctured Indian bravado and forced them to the dialogue table.
If India backs off, Pakistan would claim the same kind of ‘victory’ that they do for the 1965 war and their confidence would be higher than ever. India would end-up looking like a soft-state that can’t deal a decisive blow to Pakistani military might. This is precisely what the Pakistani state wants.
Yet, the Sardesais of this world would rather have the Indian government paranoid about ‘escalation’ and cease aggressive operations. They want the Indian people to cower due to the prospect of Pakistani retaliation. Despite unanimity of opinion among IAF veterans that India is fully capable of inflicting more damage on Pak and, despite the capture of an officer, give greater pain to the Islamic republic, this section of the media, and by extension, the intelligentsia, is hell bent on hurting Indian morale.
Their unstated assertion is: the costs of continuing hostilities with Pakistan is too high and the Indian nation can’t withstand it. They want us to believe that the Modi-led government is taking Indian down the road of destruction. So, step back and resume dialogue.
They wouldn’t mind the humiliation India would suffer due to this backtracking. They also don’t mind the message of weakness it would convey. These people would see India remain a soft nation getting bullied by a much smaller, weaker, poorer nation.
It’s time that other sections of the media, and people on social media, ensure that their attempt to generate fear among the Indian people fails and the nation remains undeterred. This opportunity shouldn’t be missed to prove India’s intolerance for terror – once and for all.