The late Air Marshal Asghar Khan, after retiring from the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), repeatedly declared that every war between India and Pakistan was begun by the latter. According to him, 1947-48, 1965 and 1971 wars were all started by Pakistan. Even the battle of Kargil in 1999, as is boastfully portrayed by General Pervez Musharraf, was instigated by him.
In effect, India has always been forced to react (albeit 1971 conveniently fell into its lap and well prepared Indian armed forces overran East Pakistan in a matter of days to liberate it into Bangladesh); India never pre-emptively attacked Pakistan. Even Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee drew a red line vis-à-vis crossing the United Nations-mandated line of control in Kashmir during the Kargil conflict.
Crossing an international border in hot pursuit can be justified under international law and should in principle not be ruled out. But the circumstances need to be serious enough; and the retaliation well planned and successful, not a knee-jerk response because of a ruling party’s political compulsions.
The United States administration supported India’s right to self-defence after the killing of over 40 CRPF para-military personnel in Pulwama on 14 February; but deemed both the performance by the Indian Air Force and Indian diplomacy post-confrontation as inferior compared to Pakistan’s showing – which is the general impression of the international community.
While Pakistani sources concede the Indian Air Force's action was not without dividend, the satellite image produced by Reuters to establish that the building in Balakot in Pakistan, which was allegedly the IAF’s main target, was still intact dealt a blow to the Indian claims. The San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc., which served up the high-resolution pictures, is also utilised by the US government.
If the IAF failed to fully accomplish its mission, this was perhaps caused by a rushed riposte, that, too, in darkness, under political pressure.
In contrast, the PAF hit an Indian air base in Kashmir and took out an Indian MIG fighter, whose pilot was forced to para-shoot into Pakistani controlled territory, where to India’s embarrassment he was captured and paraded as a trophy. That he was promptly returned to India won plaudits for Prime Minister Imran Khan from several nations for being a man of peace; whereas Modi was branded a war-monger.
As for the IAF shooting down a PAF F-16 aircraft, the former says it has proof of this on its AWACs radar, but the US has indirectly suggested Pakistan’s fleet is undiminished. Indeed, Modi has overall been administered a licking in his eagerness to trump up a scrap with Pakistan.
Never in any five-year period of a central government in India have so many attacks by terrorists on security establishments occurred as during Modi’s chowkidari. Even the otherwise impregnable fortress of Pathankot was penetrated. Astonishingly, spies from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence were extended hospitality at Pathankot’s military facility, only for Pakistan to turn around and state it had no evidence of Pakistani involvement in the infiltration and gun fight.
As for Pulwama, Pakistan-headquartered Jaish-e-Mohammed candidly claimed credit for the outrage and at the very least was responsible for radicalising the suicide bomber. Consequently, the Pakistani regime is obliged to prosecute JeM’s perpetrators.
At the same time, it was an Indian, a local man, who triggered the blast; and there is no incontrovertible indication the explosives came from Pakistan. In fact, it is yet to be explained as how the suicide bomber with his car could hoodwink security to get so close to a CRPF convoy.
In short, with BJP and Modi being in-charge in Jammu & Kashmir as well as at the centre, they cannot be absolved of blame. Indeed, its incompetence is such that it could not avenge the humiliation either. So, evidentially, national security in independent India has never been as unsafe as under Narendra Modi.
The solution in terms of making India more secure lies in sustained diplomacy; in finding permanent peace with Pakistan and a resolution of the border dispute with China. An intellectually challenged BJP is incapable of delivering on these. Internally, a revised policy of economic development coupled with a firm hand against insurgencies is the answer.
The BJP’s propagation of it being a paragon of nationalism is patently fictitious. Yet, it has managed to position itself as such, because the stance has gone unchallenged.
It stands for jingoistic Hinduism; certainly not Indian nationalism, which is inseparable from secularism. Both the Hindu Mahasabha, which gave birth to the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, predecessor to the BJP, and the BJP’s current foster father the RSS played a dubious, anti-national role during India’s freedom movement.
It not only ducked the struggle, but crawled before and collaborated with the British.
The Mahasabha and RSS’s divisive and majoritarian agenda fanned the flames of hatred between Hindus and Muslims – just as much as the Muslim League and other Islamist groups did – and strengthened Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s demand for partition and Pakistan.
Last but not the least, Hindu terrorists committed the unforgivable crime of assassinating Mahatma Gandhi. It is, therefore, a travesty to even hint at the BJP being nationalist. It is the very anti-thesis of India’s unity and integrity and therefore Indian nationalism.