‘Little chance of regional peace if Modi is re-elected’

Ex-defence secretary says Indian military could attempt further ‘surgical strikes’

May 04, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The re-election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the ongoing Indian elections could complicate the path to peace between the two nuclear-tipped, hostile neighbours.

This fear was expressed by former defence minister Lt Gen (retd) Naeem Khalid Lodhi while speaking at the Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI) during the launch of the book “India’s Surgical Strike Stratagem, Brinksmanship and Response”. The book has been authored by politics scholar and Quaid-i-Azam University faculty member Professor Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal.

The book explains the constructs of India's military doctrine, the evolution of the Indian military institution, and the use of sham 'surgical strikes' by Modi as a political tool. It critically scrutinizes the operability of the ‘surgical strike stratagem', particularly in the context of the Pulwama incident while examining the legal status of such operations under international law.

“If Modi returns to power the chances of peace would be bleak,” Lt Gen Lodhi stated, adding, “There is all reason to believe that he (Modi) along with the likes of Ajit Doval and Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat, especially after the damage to the ego and reputation of their armed forces in recent Pulwama stand-off, would continue with their destabilizing attitude and stoking tensions.”

He feared an escalation in the hybrid war which New Delhi has directed at Islamabad.

Similarly, he said, Indian armed forces could attempt further ‘surgical strikes’ in an attempt to normalise such actions.

The former defence minister also contradicted the belief held by Prime Minister Imran Khan that Modi’s return to power could increase the odds for peace.

Dr Jaspal contended that India’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric was not just about the elections. He worried about where Modi’s increasingly irrational behaviour would lead the two countries and the region at large.

“The most troublesome part of the post-Pulwama military stand-off was that India had mobilised its nuclear delivery vehicles and Modi turned up the nuclear rhetoric,” he said, adding that worryingly the not only did the Western media and intellectuals remain silent on this aspect of the conflict, but “local media too did not pick up this nuclear dimension of the conflict.”

Talking about the book, Dr Jaspal said that he had based his work on neutral literature regarding the conflict. Through his own insight on the issue, Dr Jaspal stated that he had attempted to present a fresh perspective, which is not based on rhetoric but legal and international underpinnings.

The author went on to contend that India’s irrational behaviour towards Pakistan was for strengthening the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Modi’s propaganda that the Indian government’s national security approach is ‘without fetters,’ but Modi’s India was capable of taking bold steps against a nuclear-powered state such as Pakistan.

IPI Executive Director Professor Sajjad Bokhari said that India’s offensive rhetoric and aggressive international posturing poses an unprecedented challenge for Pakistan’s security, and consequently for regional stability.

“While India is employing force in Kashmir, it is also politicising international discourse at multilateral forums to the detriment of Pakistan,” he said, adding, “A case in point is on-going tensions over the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) issue.”

He emphasized that qualitative and quantitative modernisation of conventional and strategic forces was critical for Pakistan. 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2019.

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