We forgot 26/11. Pathankot. Uri. Let's not forget Pulwama now

This is the land of Indira Gandhi, the PM who dealt with Pakistan with an iron hand. It's time to adopt a similar approach. That is both righteous dharma and true intelligence.

 |  10-minute read |   11-03-2019
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On February 14, 2019, India saw one of the ghastliest terror attacks of all time. The nation lost 40 of its soldiers when a convoy of the Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was attacked in Kashmir’s Pulwama by a vehicle-borne suicide bomber who owed allegiance to the Pakistan-based jihadi organisation, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

As India stood still, we were reminded of many such previous attacks that proved that our neighbouring country Pakistan has been harbouring terrorists. From the 2001 Parliament attack by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed that took nine lives to the 2008 Mumbai attacks where 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists took more than 170 lives. From the 2015 Gurdaspur attack that killed three civilians and four policemen to the 2016 Uri attack that claimed the lives of 17 jawans — India’s war on terror isn’t new.

For decades now, dastardly terrorist attacks have been tearing down our nation’s strength — with frequency and savagery that know no bounds.

While every terror attack is equally appalling, the Pulwama terror attack was a reminder that this war and this complacency can’t go hand in hand.

gurdaspur_031019063405.jpgWe have forgotten the Gurdaspur attack — although it hasn't been so long. (Photo: Reuters)

Passive to aggressive

Pakistan, the staging ground for various terrorist groups, needed a befitting reply. The calls for revenge amongst Indians were roaring. And so, 12 days after the Pulwama attack, when Indian fighter jets bombed a JeM terror camp at Pakistan’s Balakot, the Indian in me was filled with pride.

Don’t get me wrong here — I am no warmonger. But I am no coward either. I totally stand with India’s act of self-defence against Pakistan – for Pakistan is a state-sponsor of terrorism, which has repeatedly attacked India.

For so long, our peace-loving Gandhian land has been mum — but no more. We have all the right to retaliate to the unwarranted aggression – more so if it targets our country’s pride, our soldiers.

The air-strike was a simple message that if Pakistan-backed terrorist groups attack India again, India will hit — and hit them hard.

Here’s what Bhagwad Gita says:

अहिंसा परमो धर्मः धर्म हिंसा तथैव च:

अर्थात् यदि अहिंसा सबसे बड़ा धर्म है, तो धर्म की रक्षा के लिए हिंसा करना भी उसी प्रकार श्रेष्ठ है|

This means that although non-violence is the ultimate dharma or duty, it is equally righteous to commit violence for the protection of dharma.

indira-gandhi-ili-50_031019063448.jpgRemember, this is the land of Indira Gandhi. She brooked no nonsense in 1971. (Photo: India Today)

The Bhagwad Gita has many such anecdotes that say to kill an enemy for the protection of the good, there is nothing wrong in picking up a weapon. So, when India strikes back at Pakistan, it is our dharma to do so.

India has made one thing pretty clear: We won’t tolerate terror in our country and if Pakistan doesn’t mend its ways, then our soldiers will kill the terrorists. And successive governments — irrespective of the party in power — must match this doctrine.

Call it a 'paradigm shift' or a long-awaited move on part of the Indian government — but we won’t tolerate another terror attack.

Hello Liberals, where are you? 

A day after the Indian air-strike at Balakot, Pakistan launched an incursion across the Line of Control (LoC) which resulted in aerial combat. The dogfight led to the capture of Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman who shot down an intruding Pak F-16 fighter jet during the cross-border airstrike.

After spending 60 hours in Pakistani captivity, the Indian Air Force pilot was released on March 1. Feted as a hero among a majority of Indians, Abhinandan won many hearts for the calm he was seen maintaining in the videotaped interrogations by Pakistan officers.

pathankot-candle-lig_031019063500.jpgIndia, don't move on. (Photo: Reuters)

While the pilot was praised by many for his bravery and composure, India’s liberal elite was on a different tangent altogether.

As disconnected as they can get from the reality of society, India's liberals waxed lyrical about the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. Perhaps these ivory-tower radicals, who were just too stunned with the so-called ‘peace gesture’ of the Pakistan government, were unaware that the neighbouring country was in fact obliged to release our pilot under the Geneva Conventions.

Note here that these are the same group of what I call “intellectually illiberal and condescending people” who broach peace and human rights. They often sympathise with terrorists and demand peace, forgetting that peace is a two-way road. You can’t stay peaceful at the cost of your countrymen’s lives.

It is shocking how many among us aren’t supporting the nation in this war on terrorism with Pakistan while the latter has been shamed internationally and has lost the majority of its global support post-the Pulwama attack. Now that Pakistan risks becoming a global pariah, some Indians are commiserating with it.

Those who are soft on Pakistan, are they actually soft on terror? Because Pakistan is a hub of terror. It may be difficult for some to understand, but Pakistan has been involved in terrorist activities around the world. Shielding itself with its nuclear umbrella, Pakistan continues to harbour several terror organisations.

terrorism_031019063511.jpgPakistan is a land of terrorists. It always was. We need to deal with it like that. (Photo: Reuters)

But India has had enough. Pakistan must soon dismantle terror infrastructure and act against operatives such as Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar. If Pakistan doesn’t crack down on the terrorist groups it hosts, India will not be afraid to do that.

Mind you, this is the land of Indira Gandhi — the Indian PM who dealt with Pakistan with an iron hand. The PM who was an excellent military strategist and a diplomat like no other. The PM under whose guidance we won the 1971 war against Pakistan.

Unfortunately for us, and fortunately for Pakistan, after Indira Gandhi, there has been no other Indian PM who could deal with internal and external enemies with the same bravery.

A woman of substance and a leader of the masses, Indira believed in no chest-thumping, no jingoism and certainly no propaganda.

Politics over national security

Today, as we see it, political rhetoric has taken precedence over the nation’s sovereignty. While Indira never boasted, her actions did the talking. But currently, nationalism has politics in tow.

While the country was mourning the loss of its soldiers in the Pulwama attack, our PM failed to immediately address the nation and chose to go on the hustings instead. His much-famed Mann ki Baat was nowhere to be heard. But after launching air-strikes at Balakot, the BJP government took no time to politicise the Pulwama attack for garnering votes.

Although I wholeheartedly applaud the current government’s response to Pakistan-sponsored terror — be it the air-strikes now or the surgical strike after Uri — I can’t applaud the ensuing politicising of such acts. These acts are to counter the attack on the soul of India — not to polarise voters in favour of the BJP or the Congress.

That said, boasting about the number of dead terrorists isn’t a tactical solution to this war on terrorism.

Today, we want the international community to add Pakistan to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. But we have failed to walk the talk.

And over the years, India has allowed Pakistan to become what it is.

Had this step been taken by the UPA government after the 2008 Mumbai attack, Pakistan wouldn’t have come this far.

When Atal Bihari Vajpayee pushed for the peace process with Pakistan by inaugurating the Delhi-Lahore bus service in February 1999, Pakistan ditched us soon by launching the Kargil War. And it never stopped betraying us.

The fact that Pakistan’s territory was used for launching cross-border terror strikes on Mumbai, Pathankot, Uri, and now, Pulwama, can’t be denied. Which is why PM Modi must talk tough and act tough with Islamabad and ask the Pakistan PM Imran Khan to hand over India’s enemies — Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar.

He must take a solid stand against Pakistan and do away with the bonhomie that he was trying to strike up by visiting Lahore uninvited. Additionally, other political leaders like Navjot Singh Sidhu should follow suit. No more talks of building the Kartarpur Corridor on Indian soil. The process should be stalled with immediate effect, for it will fuel Khalistani terror once again — something that I and Captain Amarinder Singh already cautioned against in the past.

The sheer complacency of this government along with security and intelligence failures must be done away with.

Also, remember that most of our defence equipment require an urgent upgrade. As per a July 2017 report, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) reported that the Indian Army’s ammunition will not last for more than 10 days in a war. It also said that in case if a war, the military does not have the minimum required stock of 55 per cent of the 152 types of arms it uses for operational preparedness.

After Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure as PM, successive governments failed to give due attention to the defence budget. In fact, last year, the Indian Army stated that 68 per cent of its equipment is vintage. And now that the defence allocation in the interim Budget 2019-20 has a shortfall, particularly in its capital allocation, modernisation seems like a far cry.

jihadi_031019063548.jpgOur war on terrorism is not against Kashmiris. It is vital to stress that. (Photo: Reuters)

The perils of being Pakistan’s neighbour

India must learn from the United States. Just like the US declared a war on terror after 9/11 and destroyed its enemies, the Indian government needs to aim for the same.

I have full faith in our defence forces. They have the strength, valour, and conviction to conduct an operation against the Pakistani terror outfits and be successful. All we need is an assurance from the present and future governments, an assurance that there won’t be any attack on India after Pulwama.

For this to happen, the government must take tough coercive action against Pakistan. We must have a consistent Pakistan policy. Rather than being reactive, we must be proactive.

Though flights re-routing and not crossing Pakistani airspace may look like a good solution, in reality, it isn’t. For we have done that in the past too. On Jan 1, 2002, India imposed a ban on all flights originating from Pakistan. This move proved much damaging to India than to Pakistan. Simply because this step resulted in increased fuel costs and longer flying times for India.

Thus, what we need is a balanced strategy that puts diplomatic, military and economic pressure on Pakistan.

And while we are at it, let’s not forget that we also must tackle the infiltration of jihadi elements in West Bengal, which has turned into a safe haven for jihadists thanks reportedly to Mamta Banerjee and her vote bank politics.

As for Kashmir, remember that in the last two to three years, there has been a drastic increase in the number of local Kashmiri recruits into terror outfits. And so, we must resort to a carrot-and-stick approach to tackle radicalisation in the Valley.

While we do that, we must not forget that our war on terrorism is not against Kashmiris — it is against Pakistan-sponsored terror groups who are infiltrating Kashmir. It is against Islamist radicalism, which has become a global threat.

Understand that as long as Pakistan exists as a nation, it will continue spreading terror in J&K and Punjab. Pakistan is a terrorist state and must be declared one.

Today, we are witnessing an emotional outpouring that advocates revenge for our fallen heroes. Today, we are being driven by a ‘media narrative’. Today, we have become Internet soldiers, fighting with Pakistanis on social media. Today, we have the time to depict our outrage through protests and candlelight marches. Tomorrow, we may get busy with our usual, mundane tasks — forgetting Pulwama just like every other terrorist act that has hurt India in the past.

So, India, please don’t move on.

Please don’t sleep now — to wake up when another terror attack strikes.

We may have forgotten 26/11, Gurdaspur, Pathankot and Uri. We may have forgotten all such Pakistan-sponsored terror attacks that infested and hurt India.

But let’s not forget Pulwama.

Pulwama should not be repeated.

Also Read: General Elections 2019: Even after Balakot, are major BJP states not joining General Elections, wary of an uncertain mood?


Sadhavi Khosla Sadhavi Khosla @sadhavi

Entrepreneur, blogger and political analyst based in Gurgaon.

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