As tension mounts in the sub-continent, opinions are divided about whether a full-scale war should be fought between India and Pakistan, and whether such a war would solve the problems between the two neighbours. The government has started its review of the Indus Water Treaty and made a surgical strike against terror camps. TEHELKA takes stock of the situation…
Patriotic wars are just a form of honour killing
Let the Prime Minister continue to put his rhetorical power to good use. And let the war be waged only in television studios , because the real war has a cold fatality that makes nonsense of the bluster, warns HARCHARAN BAINS
Wars are evidence of failure of humanity.. Shorn of kindergarten ideological kitsch, even a patriotic war is nothing but honour killing by another name.
Over-articulate war romantics have beenÂ whipping up war hysteria which refuses to distinguish between sane nationalism and zesty jingoism. These self-appointed though unelected legislators of public opinion pontificate with blissful self-righteousness from the cozy and secure distance of Delhi and Islamabad from the live and hostile Indo-Pak border. They have little to do with the actual business of fighting wars and even less with bearing its emotional, social, financial and human costs.
For every Arnab Goswami (who knows what the nation wants to know better than the nation itself ), there are at least two Najam Sethis and Hassan Nisars in Pakistan who, even while remaining appropriately patriotic Pakistanis, have refused to go overboard in articulating their response to the challenge which both India and Pakistan must worry about . True, Pakistan has their own âLal Topi Walaâ Zaid Hamids to measure their vocal chords, lung power and dark-lane logic against our heroically patriotic Arnab Goswami, but then â luckily and incredibly â Goswamiâs Pakistani counterpart is more ridiculed than respected in the Pakistani media.
Ironically, one must be grateful that the politicians and the press in both countries are sparing their respective armies the trouble of fighting a war â fighting it themselves by proxy on armyâs behalf every morning in the newspaper columns and every evening in television studios. No one would really mind the Indo-Pak anchors and editors to keep fighting their high decibel wars to sort out the Kashmir and other issues between the two countries â as long as they donât actually create a climate in which willy-nilly, policymakers, soldiers and statesmen of this country find themselves irrevocably sucked in.
But there is a little problem here. Wars have to be fought as wars, and there is a cold fatality about the exercise which makes nonsense of the boasts and blusters coming off screaming television screens and newspaper pages. In an age when television anchors are threatening to replace diplomats, policymakers, strategic experts, soldiers and statesmen, it is hard for any government to resist the temptation of allowing its foreign policy to be guided if not shaped by populist jingoism. One must be grateful that in general, governments in India so far have demonstrated admirable restraint and maturity in firmly disallowing hysterical opinion-makers to influence our foreign policy, diplomacy or other strategic decisions impacting bilateral relations between India and Pakistan. The refusal or failure to do so would have been disastrous as the wages of such capitulation to populism would have been utterly unaffordable. The government has done well to be only entertained and not influenced by such opinion-makers. Hucksters must not be allowed to pass for opinion-makers.
Although Pakistan cannot survive into the third week of a full-scale Indo-Pak war, and will almost certainly burn itself out, yet the wages of war would be horrific on both sides. Despite Indiaâs numerical superiority in conventional military and strategic human and hardware strength, a war with Pakistan can only end in a near-stalemate, with minor psychological advantages to one or other side, most probably to India â but advantages not significant enough to discipline Pakistan forever â or even for a significantly long period.
Moreover, the availability of nuclear option with both countries makes war absolutely irrelevant and futile, even insane. Suppose India uses its superiority in conventional warfare to push Pakistan back far enough to claim victory, Pakistanâs army junta and even their civilian political top brass would be forced to fall back on their desperate last measure â the nuclear option â to redeem their national prestige. India would be forced to respond or even pre-empt this option. But long before either country puts its finger on the button, the world community would raise the alarm and broker a truce between the warring half-lords.
Even if India gains aÂ major territorial advantage in land war, the world would rush in and put representatives of the two sides in separately chartered flights to a neutral venue like Tashkent and force/persuade both to withdraw their forces to the pre-conflict position. Status quo ante. Like in 1948. Like in 1965. Like on the western border in 1971.
So, after the war, we will return to where we were before it began. At best, India can gain a breather. Unless Kashmiri militants grab the opportunity to inflict as much damage as they can. So, the situation in Kashmir also would be no better than it is without the war. It could even be worse, considering how our entire security attention would be diverted from Kashmir during the war.
Thus, India must realise that as a superior and more responsible economic power, its stakes in peace are far greater than those of Pakistan. In terms of development and economic status, even a short, 20-day war would put both countries back by nearly two decades. But while for Pakistan these two decades would change little and it would still remain what it is â poor and backward, India could well and truly use those two decades of peace to improve the lot of its people and emerge as aÂ world leader, boasting a healthy growth rate. In the event of war, our growth rate would plummet into negative while Pakistanâs is already nothing to smile about. As the richer cousin, it is in Indiaâs interest to stay with development, growth and prosperity unhindered by war. Media and jingoists must be told to stop this fatal obsession.
Peace is a noble goal anyway. But even in terms of cold self-interest, it is in Indiaâs interest to avert a war. It is true that war too can sometimes be used as a tool of diplomacy. But for that, one of the two sides must be able to use it with significant impact. Nuclear arsenals with both India and Pakistan rule that option out. Therefore, if Pakistan persists with bleeding us through terror, we have to win in that âcold warâ through peace-time diplomacy. For that, India must not only avoid war but must also be seen to be avoiding it. If you call Pakistan a ârogue stateâ, then you cannot allow yourself to equate your responses with their actions.
War with Pakistan thus will solve nothing. If terrorism is bad, so is war. If an Indian war could stop Pakistan-backed terrorism, then perhaps one might even be tempted to take the plunge and pay the price. But that seems highly improbable. Please let us not push millions of people on both sides of the fence into jaws of death.
It is time for India to activate its economic arsenal through superior peacetime diplomacy â time to shift from the size of a Prime Ministerâs chest to the subtlety of his brain. The best sound byte to hit my ears in recent years has been Modiâs latest âchallengeâ to Pakistan, daring our neighbour to defeat us in a war on poverty. âDekhte hain kaun jeet-ta hai.â Here is Narendra Modiâs rhetorical power put to the best possible use. It seems that his âtailorâ has finally advised him to cut his economic and diplomatic cloth according to the 56â chest size he enjoys as Prime Minister of India.â From drums of war to the symphony of diplomacy. Indiaâs Narendra Modi has arrived as world statesman â at last.
Drop in water flow mayÂ give Pakistan a big blow
Â When Prime Minister Narendra Modi famously said that âBlood and water cannot flow togetherâ while chairing a meeting on the sharing of Indus river waters, he made a pertinent point that postÂ 18 September Uri attack, it would never be business as usual with Pakistan. With government stepping up to exploit share of water in the Indus Water Treaty and calling off participation in meetings of Indus water commissioners, the message from India is loud and clear that water flow to Pakistan would be reduced and India would potentially squeeze Pakistanâs agriculture. We all know that Pakistan does not possess water storage facilities and is hence dependent on the river flow. Such a measure by India would be a big blow to that country.
As a journalist, when I began my foray with Indian Express from Punjab, I found that water has always been a very emotive issue with people and sharing of river waters has stirred tensions between states. In fact, the old Punjab derived its name from â<punj aabs>â (five rivers) â Satluj, Beas, Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum. All these five rivers joined the Indus on its way to the sea. The sharing of water from the Indus is governed by the Indus Water Treaty. Signed by India and Pakistan in 1960, it lays down the framework for sharing waters from the Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers. It specifies that waters from the three western rivers â Indus, Jhelum and Chenab are reserved for Pakistan, while those from the three eastern rivers â Ravi, Sutlej and Beas â are for India. The three western rivers are estimated to carry 123 million acre-feet (MAF) of water while the three eastern rivers carry 233 MAF of water.
India will draw up plans to exploit its share fully â 20 percent of the waters of the west-flowing rivers. Modi announced the constitution of an inter-ministerial task force that will draw up plans for âmaximising the benefits of the western rivers for the farmers of Jammu and Kashmirâ, a person familiar with the developments said. With this India could use waters of the three rivers to irrigate 9,12,000 acres which can be increased by 4,20,000 acres. At present India irrigates only 8,00,000 acres. The Indus Water Treaty also permits India store up to 3.6 MAF of water; however it has not done so. India will also be looking at exploiting the hydroelectric power potential of the three eastern rivers, estimated to be 18,600 MW, of which only 11,406 MW was either being used or are part of plans for usage.
India also plans to construct three dams on the river Chenab and would also review a 1987 decision to stop the construction of the Tulbul barrage on the Jhelum. The decision was taken after Pakistan had objected that the plan violated the Indus Water Treaty. It is clear that the Indus water commissioners appointed by India and Pakistan, who meet on an average twice a year, will not meet for now. The aim of the meetings of the commissioners has been to resolve differences that crop up between the two countries. Any dispute that is not sorted by the commissioners is then taken to an international court for arbitration. Significantly, the Indus Water Treaty is considered to be one of the most successful bilateral water sharing pacts.
There has been a demand from Indian political leaders cutting across party lines that India should abrogate the treaty in the aftermath of killing of 18 soldiers by four militants who stormed an Indian Army battalion headquarters in northern Jammu and Kashmir, close to Line of Controlon 18 September. Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup was quick to retort that âEventually, any cooperative arrangement requires goodwill and mutual trust on both sidesâ. Former external affairs minister and veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha too said that India should abrogate the treaty.
The key points
The treaty was signed by Indiaâs first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru with Pakistani president Ayub Khan on 19 September 1960 in Karachi. The Indus Waters Treaty primarily covers the water distribution and sharing rights of six rivers â Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum. The treaty is an arrangement to implement a fair distribution of a natural resource between India and Pakistan. It also provides for mechanisms to resolve disputes over water sharing. Under the treaty, Pakistan receives exclusive use of waters from the Indus and its westward-flowing tributaries, the Jhelum and Chenab, while the Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej rivers have been allocated for Indiaâs use. Although India can construct storage facilities on âwestern riversâ of up to 3.6 million acre feet, it has so far not taken recourse to it.
The Indus Waters Treaty was signed by the then Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru and his Pakistan counterpart, Ayub Khan with the intervention of the World Bank. As per the treaty, Beas, Ravi and Sutlej are to be governed by India and Indus, Chenab and Jhelum are to be taken care of by Pakistan. However, since Indus flows from India, the country is allowed to use 20 percent of water. It may be worth mentioning that Indus is the mightiest of rivers and over 70 percent of its catchment area is in Pakistan.
Why it could be a bad decision
When we do a reality check, we find that any attempt to put a squeeze on water flowing to Pakistan may not work as there is no way to control the fast-flowing waters of the Indus.
Unless India builds dams and forces the India-friendly population of Ladakh to undergo the trauma of massive displacement. In that case, the Indian military camps located on the banks of the Indus will also have to be shifted. Any effort to control the residual flow will mean a large-scale appropriation of prime agriculture. This strategy is unlikely to go well with the people of Punjab. It is perhaps in this context that the government has left the options open and decided to hold the talks between Commissioners of the Indus Water Treaty âwhen the atmosphere is free from cross-border terrorismâ.
Enough is Enough: World must declare Pakistan a terrorist state
Pakistan has been using terror groups as militant proxies against India ever since it came into existence. It has also been linked to many terror attacks in many parts of the world. It channels billions of dollars for training and deploying terrorists against India. Recent terror attacks planned and executed by Pakistan have once again shattered the possibility of peace with our neighbour. This year, after Pathankot, Uri is the latest and the common man is fed up with governmentâs assurances, time and again, that it will take effective action to arrest such dastardly acts by Pakistan. The mood of the nation is such that India has no option but to punish Pakistan.
However, it is unfortunate that the man in the street, unaware of the complexities involved, thinks that State as an institution has been reduced to the level of theÂ fire brigade, which is professionally incompetent, but has to resort to fire-fighting operations with sickening monotony. The whole world (with the exception of powers which are concerned only with their expansionist approach) knows fully well that aim of Pakistanâs low intensity conflict is to slowly but surely bleed âHindu Indiaâ to death even though it has no case in Kashmir.
Pakistan conveniently forgets that the worst form of violation of human rights is terrorism. It couldnât care less whether it is called a Garrison State, or a Rogue State or even a Terrorist State. India may pat itself on the back that it has foiled all attempts by Pakistan to involve international powers and kept it as a bilateral issue only, but on the military front we have adopted a defensive posture all along. Our concern for creating a positive impression on the international community and hence maintaining constraint has emboldened Pakistan; it is doing what any enemy would.
Unfortunately, our knee-jerk reactions in most of the situations have made the matters worse. There is no doubt in any oneâs mind that Pakistanâs only agenda is to organise material and moral support for Kashmir from its shores and continue making concerted efforts to get such support from other Islamic countries. Right message through a befitting reply was handed over to Pakistan in the Kargil war, but we failed to cash in on it and did not design a suitable policy to counter the jehad against India as suggested by Subramaniam Committee. It is unfortunate that we as a nation have not learnt any lessons even after such an expensive experience of dealing with Pakistan.
Now is the right time for India to play a pro-active role through diplomatic channels to push for declaring Pakistan a terrorist state. Some of the options are in the public domain and are being discussed by TV channels and newspapers. However, governments have their own system of initiating close scrutiny of practically viable options by an appropriate government authority and suitable calibrated response is provided at the right time. Anti-Pakistan emotions in the country cannot force a mature democracy like ours to take immature actions. The average Indian may not understand all the complexities involved in dealing with Pakistan and bashing on regardless as suggested by emotionally charged individuals and groups cannot become a pragmatic solution. We must move beyond bluster and beat the war drums slowly.
We should expect Pakistan to approach different world forums with all the sound and fury and be ready to deal with its belligerence and distorted narratives. India must up the ante and change the way it has been talking and thinking about it but military response is a different ball game. It is a fact of life that neither can we forget Mughal rule nor can Pakistan forget the shame and humiliation of Bangladesh. Yet, there is no doubt that the time is ripe for Modi to catch the bull by the horns. By now, we understand our own and our adversaryâs strengths and weaknesses so well that a suitable action to teach Pakistan a lesson of life is certainly possible. Modiâs detractors cite his reference to Balochistan in his Independence Day address as one of the reasons of escalation in terror activities without appreciating the fact that it we should have spoken for a just cause earlier.
It is unfortunate that even in the face of such grave threats, some political parties are thinking of their narrow short-term gains. Such forces must be ruthlessly made to shut up. Even in our kind of deformed democracy, a leader with political will can achieve this easily. It is high time we act as a responsible, mature but bold nation led by a leader who has the potential to find reasonable, fair solutions to the problems facing us, terror attacks by our neighbor being on top of the priority list. Let us not earn the dubious distinction of being the most hijacked nation in the world which can be hijacked emotionally, psychologically and physically by any adventurist who dares to do that. A nation of 130 crore definitely deserves better than that.
We should expect Pakistan to approach different world forums with all the sound and fury and be ready to deal with its belligerence
Pakistan has been raising the bogy of nuclear weapons in their arsenal time and again because Indiaâs image in the world is that of a status-quo state, not ready to change its stance. Our present system of intelligence collection and dissemination of the same as far as nuclear threat is concerned must become more effective without giving undue weightage to enemy threats. Conventional warfare is here to stay, as use of nuclear weapon systems will be limited to specific areas and up to a particular depth and the enemy understands the consequences of use of these. We must understand that the policy of peaceful co-existence and our adversaryâs â that of offensive action to deal us with a death blow â must change to âoffensive defenceâ. Happily, it is already visible on the ground to some extent.
Nawaz Sharif is following in the footsteps of Musharraf who had similarly landed himself in a Catch-22 situation and had raced towards the doom which is the ultimate fate of every dictator. It is well known that all Pakistani rulers whether dictators or civilians in the garb of democracy have been masterminding Islamic terrorism, the ugliest face of terror, basically to bleed India. Most of the powers of the world, barring China, recognise Pakistan as a barbarian and ruthless State which has no respect for democratic norms and believes in bloodshed and killing of innocent people for resolving any issues. The US and Russia may have their own problems in declaring Pakistan a âTerrorist Stateâ but it is clear to them that Pakistan alone is responsible for breeding cross-border terrorism. Pakistan has been exposed globally and is in the process of getting isolated; it can no more get away with having the best of both the worlds, condemning terrorism by claiming that it is the worst sufferer and masterminding it at the same time.
India can expose Pakistan by letting the world know the âhowâ and âwhyâ of it wanting to model itself on the pattern of an Islamic State. Scholars believe that Islam has nowhere stated the exact form and structure of an Islamic government; it only stipulates the aims and fundamental principles to be followed by such a government. A reasonable and fair point of view is that out of many forms of government, only that is most suitable and effective for the people of that country which is popular and which conducts its affairs in a democratic, competent manner. A government can be popular only if its people accept its authority willingly and love and respect the laws framed by it. Maybe peopleâs faith in a particular religion is one factor which can generate reverence for the laws framed in the name of the faith.
Since Pakistan has religion as its base for governance, it tends to believe that people love and respect the laws of the government as these have a divine origin. If that were to be true and hypothetically there was only one religion in the world, Mother Earth would have been a very peaceful planet. But one cannot expect every individual to have the same faith, in respect of social and legal rights if they were allowed independent thinking and were spared the influence of fear â motivation of the fundamentalists. In its 70 years of existence, sometimes under the faĂ§ade of democracy and sometimes under the rule of some autocrat, Pakistan has proved time and again that it has no respect for law and no love for its teeming millions who are being pushed below the subsistence level every day that passes.
Admittedly, every religion or faith has its boundaries and parameters and narrow confines to suit its teachings, yet no religion should give sanction to forced conversions, demolition of places of worship, whipping of the poor and powerless, encouraging terrorism in the name obedience to religious norms and denying popular rule. The objectives of any Islamic government are to ensure equality and social justice amongst its masses. This is what the Prophet declared: âAll Muslims are as equal as the teeth of a comb.â Treatment meted out to women in Pakistan is a clear violation of the teachings of the Prophet. Pakistan has been conducting its affairs, and has governed its people since its creation, in a manner that is considered unholy and totally against the tenants of Islam. It has been drifting away from the basic goals of peaceful co-existence, fair play and social justice, which is the backbone of Islamic philosophy. Its history, rampart with misuse of authority by its military rulers and mismanagement of its resources, belies all hopes of her going in the direction which will take it anywhere near an ideal Islamic State.
It is time Pakistan took stock of its unnecessary pretensions of governance in the name of Allah and devotes itself to the serious business of pragmatic rule of law and peaceful co-existence with India. India, for obvious reasons has the highest stakes in having a prosperous and democratic Pakistan as its interests are not served if civilian rule is undermined there. A poor, desperate Pakistan is dangerous for the world as a whole and particularly for India; hence strengthening its stability and enhancement of its well-being is of utmost importance for us. One can only pray to Allah to give Pakistan wisdom to govern herself in a reasonable manner, to live in peace and give her neighbours a chance to help them in doing so.
War is not an option. It doesnât solve anything
The attack on the Army camp in Uri, which claimed the lives of 18 of our soldiers, raised passions which were understandable. It was the second major attack on our defence forces this year after the terrorist strike on the Pathankot Air Force base in January.
Even though there was no doubt whatsoever that the attackers were Pakistani nationals and had sneaked in from across the border, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chose not to mention anything about the attack when he addressed the UN General Assembly two days after the attack. Instead he kept harping on the âKashmir intifadaâ and the alleged atrocities committed by security forces on the Kashmiris. He even called the gun-toting Burhan Wani, who was shot dead by security forces, as a youth leader of Kashmiris.
He was given a stinging reply the same day and at the same forum by a young Indian diplomat Eenam Gambhir who described Pakistan as the âIvy League of Terrorismâ, for being the home for the worldâs top organisations for spreading terrorism.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj subsequently gave a point by point rebuttal of Pakistan prime ministerâs speech at the United Nations General Assembly and Indiaâs assertion that Pakistan should be isolated for its support of terrorism has put Pakistan on the backfoot. She not only exposed Pakistanâs role in the terrorist attacks on India but also warned the world of the threat posed by that country to the world peace.
Her 20-minute speech in Hindi, which matched the duration of the speech in English delivered by Sharif aimed at the international audience, was a stunning attack on the policies adopted by Pakistan. She described it as a country which nurtures, promotes and exports terrorism. Asking Pakistan to stop dreaming about Kashmir, she referred to the situation in Balochistan.
Her missive to Pakistan came on the heels of a high decibel war of words unleashed on Pakistan from Indian TV studios and on various social media platforms. Most of the TV anchors cried revenge and suggested that India should immediately launch a war on Pakistan to avenge the death of soldiers. Shockingly some retired generals, at least couple of them former Army chiefs, too favoured an all-out war against the neighbouring country. Some even sought to call Pakistanâs nuclear bluff and argued that Pakistan could not afford such an eventuality. Some others suggested surgical strike for which we are neither prepared nor equipped.
These armchair warriors must realise that the days of conventional warfare, which could at times lead to hand to hand combat, are over. It is said that future wars would be fought by mouse – the one used with computers. The weapon systems are getting deadlier and the only persons or organisations happy with the outbreak of wars are the weapon manufacturers.
One also needs to assess our preparedness to meet the eventuality of a war. By all available reports our defence forces urgently need up gradation in its inventory. It is even short of officers and men and a huge chunk of defence budget remains unutilised. Same is true of our Air Force. We are woefully short of even the sanctioned aircraft. The Rafale deal is being signed to get 36 strategic fighter jets but it would take as long as three years for all these jets to be delivered. Experts would also need to calculate the number of days we can sustain a war if for some unavoidable reasons it becomes inevitable.
Every war leads to huge human and economic loss. The after effects of wars are felt for several generations and it is the families of martyrs to suffer the most. None of the news anchors or armchair hotheads and retired generals is likely to face the prospect of participating in any such conflict. Their irresponsible arguments have only added fuel to the fire.
Even the other side of the border has not remained unaffected by the tension caused by Uri attack. There were reports of traffic being blocked on some highways to enable Pakistani fighter jets to land and take off in the event of an attack by India. Pakistan too has its share of fire-spewing warmongers.
Even if it is a fact that the Pakistan army is no match to the fourth largest and highly efficient army that we have, the fact is that suffering and damage would be on both sides. The loss inflicted on Pakistan in such an eventuality would take it back for maybe over two decades but it would also retard our progress. For a country that is aiming to be a leading world economy, neither the economic setback nor a setback to its credibility in the comity of nations would be advisable.
The armchair warriors must realise that the days of conventional warfare, which could at times lead to hand to hand combat, are over. It is best to leave the decision to experts and defence forces
Thankfully, Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually ruled out this option during his speech at the BJP National Council meeting at Kozhikode. He instead challenged Pakistan leaders to a âwar on povertyâ and a race for development. At the same time, he has not ruled out any other option that India may exercise to avenge the death of soldiers at Uri. In fact he said in so many words that the perpetrators of the attack would not be let off easily. To be fair to him he gave peace a chance by taking the initiative of first inviting Nawaz Sharif and other Saarc leaders at his swearing in ceremony and followed it up with several meetings with him including the surprise landing in Pakistan earlier this year.
It is imperative to have faith in the government for a well planned and calculated response. There are several options which are being discussed. Some of these are in public domain and may have been deliberately made public for strategic reasons. Among that on the table is the abrogation of the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan. The Prime Minister has categorically said that water and blood cannot flow together. However, the government needs to study all the implications before finalising its response on the issue.
Among the other options being actively considered by the government is the withdrawal of the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan. India had granted the special status to Pakistan unilaterally in 1996 as a goodwill gesture even though Islamabad had not reciprocated. However, the withdrawal of MFN status would only be a symbolic gesture as the bilateral trade between the two countries is only a fraction of Indiaâs overall international trade.
Given the governmentâs resolve to effectively deal with the situation, it would choose its best options and a right time to carry out its plan. These could range from diplomatic to economic measures and anything in between. It is best to leave the decision to the experts and the defence forces.
But war is not an option. It has never resolved issues and has only bright out miseries and sufferings of individuals and countries. A symbolic photograph doing the rounds on social media very succinctly depicts the horrors of wars. Under the headline âReal cost of warâ it shows a woman and a child with the waistcoat of a soldier, obviously her husband, on a hanger while the child is seen wearing the cap which must have belonged to his dead father. Those baying for war must pause and think the fallout of such an action