Ever since the attack in Pulwama by a suicide bomber, killing 42 of India’s security personnel, the country has been on the edge fearing an all-out war with Pakistan. Any civilized person could see the barbarity of this dastardly terrorist act only with disgust and rage. However, a confrontation between these two nuclear powers is neither in the interest of these two nations nor does it bode well for the future of this turbulent region. Pakistan has been waging a proxy war with India over the Kashmir issue from the time of Independence, and a final solution to this crisis is not within sight.
Some would argue that this is the time of war and everyone should keep their apprehensions about its conduct or any other questions they may have close to their chest. However, a massive intelligence failure of this magnitude over the Pulwama tragedy should not be missed. How did a young man in his twenties, who was already on the radar of the security personnel, come to possess, pack and conceal, and then drive 300KG worth of explosives towards a military convoy undetected? Reports from the region suggest that a police advisory was already in effect a week before this, stating that the Central Reserve Police Force deployment would be targeted. Where is the accountability on these massive security lapses?
A recent New York Times report paints a scathing image of India’s vintage military equipment and its impact on military readiness. “India’s armed forces are in alarming shape. If intense warfare broke out tomorrow, India could supply its troops with only 10 days of ammunition according to government estimates. And 68 percent of the army’s equipment is so old…” A swollen bureaucracy together with lack of funding obviously rendered these procurement and training processes anything but cumbersome.
Nevertheless, India was left with no choice but to retaliate. Pakistan has been aiding and abetting Jaesh-e-Mohammed and its leader Masood Azhar despite the pressure from the U.N. and other international bodies. The Air Force was tasked to strike these terror targets in Balakot region: an order that was carried out despite bad weather conditions. The Indian military has been known for its professionalism and respect for civilian leadership in a democratic setup.
However, what we have witnessed following the strike from the Government and the BJP leaders would not only sully the image of India but also the nation’s credibility through overt politicization of this conflict, as the country is preparing itself for a critical election. First, the leaked information from sources to the media put the casualty count at 300 to 350. Western intelligence sources and the international press immediately cast severe doubt on these numbers, and some reports directly from the ground characterized the damages as minimal.
However, in public speeches, Amit Shah, the president of the ruling party BJP, talked about 250 terrorists being wiped out. Other BJP leaders said that the party would win 22 seats in Karnataka after the strike. It is as if BJP leaders are relishing these moments of war and salivating about the prospects of riding to victory in the fog of a protracted fight between these nations.
Anyone who questioned the veracity of these BJP leaders’ claims is called an anti-nationalist and accused of doing Pakistan’s bidding. “At a time when our army is engaged in crushing terrorism, inside the country and outside, some people within the country are trying to break their morale, which is cheering our enemy,” Prime Minister Modi said at an election rally. “I want to know from Congress and its partners why they are making statements that are benefiting the enemies,” he added. Modi is entirely taking advantage of the ongoing battle on his campaign trail, vilifying the opposition and questioning their patriotism for political advantage.
We collectively admire the bravery and sacrifice of our armed forces. They are fighting to keep all Indians safe and protect the sovereignty of the nation from terrorists and a country that provides haven to them. Moreover, they are fighting to safeguard our democratic traditions and way of life. As Sashi Kumar, a commentator, eloquently put it recently, “they are not fighting for this or that political party; they are not fighting for the electoral gains of the ruling party or of the opposition. However, they are if anything fighting the religious fundamentalism of one kind but not to replace it with the rampant religious fundamentalism of another kind, even of the majoritarian variety.”
Indian Overseas Congress, USA