by Amit Roy
NEWSPAPERS in India appear to agree that prime minister Narendra Modi has not had a
good war. How this will influence the country’s imminent general election remains to be
seen. He himself appeared to concede that things could have gone better.
“Today, the lack of Rafale is being felt,” he said. “The country is saying in one voice that had we had the Rafale (fighter jets) now, what all could have happened? Putting self-interest and politics before Rafale has seriously hurt the nation.”
Commentators in India are saying in marked contrast, Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan has appeared statesmanlike after returning the captured Indian pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman.
For the time being it looks as though the passion for military strikes and counter-strikes has cooled somewhat, although there is still heavy shelling on the border. The underlying issues between the two countries cannot be resolved so long as the army effectively runs Pakistan.
It needs to hold India as “the enemy” if it is to justify its existence. To be sure, there is a civilian government in place, but Imran’s room for manoeuvre is limited by his military masters.
It is claimed that the Pakistani army once used jihadi groups to mount or assist with terrorist attacks in Kashmir, but no longer does so.
India could easily have gone to war in 2008 after the Mumbai massacre, but Manmohan
Singh, then prime minister, exercised restraint.
But in the run-up to a general election, Modi felt he had to act in response to the suicide bombing in Kashmir in which more than 40 Indian para-military were killed. To that extent, the terrorists have achieved their aim by bringing the two countries to the verge of full-scale war. In time of conflict, nationalistic sentiment is aroused on both sides.
The mistake Indians make is in seeing all Pakistan as a monolithic structure. It would do
better to win over moderate Pakistanis – they constitute the majority, I think – and isolate
those who want to make mischief.
Pakistan insists Kashmir is a “core issue”. However, hard this might be, it should put Kashmir to one side and increase trade with India so as to improve life for ordinary Pakistanis.
War would be disastrous for both sides, but this is what the militant groups, such as Jaish-e-Mohammed – it claimed responsibility for the suicide attack in Kashmir – want.