Indian news studios have virtually turned into war rooms since the deadly Pulwama attack in India-occupied Kashmir on February 14. India, as we all know, took no time in blaming Pakistan for orchestrating the worst attack in almost three decades in Kashmir.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to take revenge, giving a free hand to the Indian military to bring the perpetrators of Pulwama attack to justice.
Analysts from different backgrounds and shades have been discussing and speculating options that the Indian army may take against Pakistan. Some suggest that the so-called surgical strikes that India claimed to have carried out after the Uri attack in September 2016 might not be an option since there was no element of surprise left in it.
Others have been talking about intelligence-based operations or using airpower to destroy the so-called ‘terror launch pads’ on the Pakistani side. Few even have the audacity to discuss the possibility of replicating the US commando-style raid to kill Osama Bin Laden.
In one TV talk show, former India army, air and naval chiefs were invited along with a retired foreign secretary of the country. Given their firsthand experience, one expected that their perspective would be rational unlike those who often appear on TV channels. But surprisingly they were all saying that talks were no more an option and that India must retaliate.
Switch from one news channel to another, none of them are offering an alternative view. There appears unprecedented consensus in India on bashing Pakistan. The discourse on Indian TV is so venomous that even journalists who in the past had tried to maintain their independent views are now also toeing the same line.
Those who dare to ask questions about India’s own follies and failures are branded as traitors. Former Test cricketer and Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu faced the wrath of so-called nationalists after he only argued that an act of terrorism committed by few individuals does not mean the entire country is the culprit.
Despite facing scathing criticism, the Congress politician stuck to his stance but in doing so he had to lose his job in a primetime comedy show hosted by Kapil Sharma. Farooq Abdullah, who is a known Kashmiri politician for having anti-Pakistan stance, was declared a Pakistan apologist when he contested the Indian claims that Islamabad was behind the Pulwama attack.
He insisted that blaming Pakistan would be a distraction from the root cause of the problem. He advised the Indian government to talk to the young Kashmiri people and find out the reason behind their growing alienation. Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister of Kashmir, is now accused of being a pro-Pakistani.
Her only crime was that she favoured a dialogue with Pakistan and urged India to accept Prime Minister Imran Khan’s olive branch instead of resorting to any military action.
Usually, artists and sportsmen stay away from politics. But this time around even they are also speaking the language of war. Some of the big names such as Saurav Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh have backed the calls for boycotting playing with Pakistan in the upcoming cricket World Cup in England. They are not only demanding severing all sporting and cultural ties but also seeking action against Pakistan.
But the history of Pakistan-India relations shows that dialogue is the only way forward. They went to the table after every time the two had gone to war whether in 1965 or 1971 or 1999. This has taught us one hard lesson that every war or conflict ultimately ends up at the negotiating table.
Surely, India is angry and is bent upon taking revenge but eventually it will have to talk to Pakistan. India has a choice — talk to Pakistan now or after any ‘misadventure’. Saner nations would certainly opt for the former.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2019.