Why are we like this? Will we ever change? Do we care for the morale of our armed forces at such a sensitive moment? After Uri, we had the cacophonous spectacle of the opposition which drummed up support with Lutyen’s Media eagerly joining, questioning the surgical strike claimed by Narendra Modi dispensation. Editorials were written and OPEds galore that it was a con job from Modi government, just to boost its sagging morale amidst the cracks in Modi juggernaut. There was little realisation that what was being challenged was the credibility and delivery competence of our priceless defence forces.
And then slowly ‘evidence’ started trickling out, after all there was a surgical strike and it was a brilliantly planned enterprise with our forces returning without a single casualty ‘or even a scratch’. So much so, even a film got made and the opposition started changing its tune. Oh! We never questioned the legitimacy of our devoted forces. We expressed ‘ our deep-rooted suspicion of the political masters who had their axes to grind’. And then the clincher from Congress. Come on, what is new about Surgical strikes! It is old hat. Manmohan’s government performed it several times but kept dignified silence as these are not meant to be shouted from rooftops. How well they pivoted with their media paratroopers.
And now after Pakistani Pulwama Perfidy, leaving behind 40 dead bodies of Central Reserve Police Force personnel, the questioning brigade has gone ballistic at the supposed surgical strike at Balakot. Initially, when the surgical strikes were quietly announced as ‘non military ore-emptive action’, the opposition too joined in congratulating the Indian Air Force for ‘its clinical efficiency’. Wow, it was surprising to see no evil in the intention of Modi government or hear no evil. Just for a few hours, until Pakistan responded with a foray beyond the Line of Actual Control with their F16 fighter jets and claimed to have hit ‘military targets and installations’, it was time for the opposition to pivot again.
They remembered that with 2019 elections round the bend, it was too close for them let Modi have his way and say. And, Boy O Boy, when Abdhinandan Varthaman chased down an F16, shot it down (with proof of Armam weapon system which F16 alone can carry) and he became a captive of the Pakistani army, the opposition got really jittery. And when Modi accomplished the return of Abhinandan, in 72 hours, citing Geneva Convention, the opposition had to do something fast. Their own variant of a surgical strike.
Well, they said that Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan was playing ‘a sagacious peacenik’. Release of Abhinandan was hailed as a gesture of goodwill and Pakistan was trumping India on the propaganda front internationally. Who told ‘them’ this? No one knows. No kudos for Modi’s men and diplomats who burnt the midnight oil.
Be that as it may, the battlelines have been drawn between Modis army and the Mahagatbhandan’s . Caught in between is the armed forces. Shameful. Posers have been raised Where is the proof of a surgical strike at Balakot? Not a crow died and even the one carcass found was too old to have been bombed out, they quoted Pakistani social media? How can you claim 300 terrorists were finished when not one body was found on site? ( no one claimed). Media access to select few has exposed the Balakot strike for what it was, a humongous drama to reap possible electoral dividends, the opposite chimed in unison.
The Government’s response, muted and when the military personnel said, “They select targets with design and go for it, and they never count the chickens”. Mr.P Chidamabaram loudly protests that the Modi government was exploiting the armed forces, which must be kept ‘above politics’. When Modi retorts that the opposition was being disloyal to the nation, they protested , “Come off your high horse. We only seek proof. Why get angry at us?”
It is singularly unfortunate that out selfish and self centred politicians are incapable of raising above politicking. Just compare the vile exchanges between our politicians with this motto of our Armed Forces, “The safety, honour and welfare of your counry comes first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command, come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time”.
Why cannot we simply trust the forces when they say what they say. Forget the political masters, do we need to doubt the legitimacy and credibility of the armed forces who sacrifice their lives and limbs so that we may live and thrive in peace. Should we drag down the one institution that has given its all, whenever called in, be it war or peace time? Shame.
(Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)