It takes a certain lack of evolutionary growth for the head of a nuclear-armed nation to provoke another equally nuclear-armed nation by shunning immediately available peaceful alternatives to instead reignite a conflict that has been kept cold for decades now, all just to win an election.
But is the current conflict between India and Pakistan a result of Modi’s efforts to win the Indian elections next month?
Yes. Here’s why.
The last time Pakistan played host to unwelcome Indian fighter aircraft in its territory was back in 1971. Pakistan and India were still post-colonial adolescents figuring out how to mind their respective businesses and resolve disagreements without the use of armies. Most importantly though, the juvenile behaviour of the two nations back then didn’t lie in the forefront of the spectre of global nuclear winter.
Nuclear winter results when the use of a certain number of nuclear weapons releases a cloud of ash and smoke so overwhelming that the sun is blocked out and global temperatures fall as a result. Soon, as the world descends into darkness, agriculture is the first to be affected and we have food shortages on a global scale. Wars are now fought not to buttress the ego of a small man, physically and metaphorically, willing to risk the lives of his countrymen for five more years as prime minister, but to feed the starving populations of the planet. A brief introduction to nuclear winter is useful I believe at this point for all war-mongering Indians and Pakistanis just as an introduction to the effects of a bullet tearing into brain tissues is important for a man looking to shoot himself in the head.
War in 1971, in spite of its dreadful nature, did not threaten human civilisation. Nuclear winter is very much possible 40 years later when Modi, in response to an indigenous suicide attack in Pulwama, decided to send IAF jets into Pakistan and bomb a hilltop. What was on the hilltop is the subject of an inexplicably divisive debate between Pakistan and India, but it is worth asking if today, the hilltop, or what was on it continues to matter or not.
Modi’s objective in striking a barren hilltop in Balakot was purportedly to avenge the Pulwama attack and ensure that such attacks do not happen, it was to address the growing insurgency in Kashmir that led to Pulwama in the first place and it was to secure the population of India from grave danger to their lives. All expected objectives for the prime minister of India.
Have any of these objectives been achieved?
Have the Indian soldiers killed in the Pulwama attack been avenged by striking a hilltop in Pakistan that Rahul Bedi, (an analyst at the London-based Jane’s Information Group) considers to have been empty of militants, were ever populated in the first place? Reporters visited the hilltop a day after the bombing to find four craters and a dead crow.
Has the growing insurgency in Kashmir that led to Pulwama in the first place been addressed by further militarising the most militarised region in the world, or by detaining the leaders of the Kashmiri people instead of inviting them to dialogue and addressing the underlying socio-political roots of the insurgency in Kashmir? Days after the IAF incursion into Pakistan, Kashmiris on both sides of the LOC continue to be the first casualties in this conflict while the Kashmiri insurgency in India shows no sign of slowing down. Instead, renewed suppression of Kashmiris in India is likely to fuel the flames of the insurgency without any help from Pakistan.
Does the average Indian citizen feel more secure after the strikes in Balakot? After the strike in Balakot, Pakistani jets actively engaged targets inside India; once they were chased into Pakistani territory, they shot down two Indian jets. If there was ever any myth that air strikes such as the one in Balakot can be used as an effective deterrent to intimidate Pakistan into compliance or that India possessed enough air superiority to pull off such a strike without incurring heavy losses, there should be no such myth anymore. With the purportedly impregnable shield around India penetrated by indigenously manufactured Pakistani jets, and a young Indian Wing Commander being in custody of the Pakistan Army, does the average Indian citizen feel more or less secure after the strikes in Balakot?
Modi has achieved none of these. This is not to say that Pakistan has been victorious. War is a profoundly defeatist phenomenon, no one wins, everyone loses. As Plato put it, “only the dead have seen the end of war.”
There is nothing to boast for in the capture of a young father, son and husband who was forced into imminent danger by the small man in Delhi. But Pakistanis do have a reason to boast, in the fact that the release of the Indian pilot is a bold step that requires vision and courage. Before India struck Balakot, Prime Minister Imran Khan called for peace and offered dialogue on all matters. But when history remembers Imran Khan, it will be for the fact that he continued to call for peace and offered dialogue after India struck and even after India was struck back and put on the back foot. In this time of crisis, the Prime Minister has done Pakistan proud by not engaging in chest thumping or war-mongering for political gain, and instead acting with the courage and soundness required of a statesman. In the face of continuous self-serving aggression from Modi, Khan has proved himself to be the bigger man by standing his ground for peace. Evidently it takes little from a self-serving small man to start a war, but immense courage and leadership from brave individuals to bring peace.
And so Modi’s actions, which have led to the shadow of war looming over the sub-continent were to achieve victory in the election in April for the simple reason that these actions have achieved nothing else. Modi’s lack of evolutionary growth as not just a leader, but as a humanitarian is evident, however, lest the selfish interests of a man looking to deceive his nation are prioritised above the survival of a billion and a half innocent Pakistanis and Indians, most without enough food to eat, it will lay testament to not just our lack of evolutionary growth as a people, but our fall into something beneath the human kind.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2019.
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