Pak border issue: Are emotion, jingoism blurring our view?

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The Indian media is creating a huge uproar on the recent killings of two Indian soldiers near the Kashmir border with Pakistan. Top political leaders are mostly silent. The general mood is to retaliate against the enemy. But there is little substance in what actually taking place on the ground. Jingoist attitude is not going to help the situation but the problem is: Like in many other cases, a section of the country's electronic media creates such a ruckus that it actually misleads all potential good work into oblivion.

National interest can not be dealt from an emotional point of view. But this is precisely what is happening. The political leadership of India has no idea about the foreign policy directions. Talks that 'India is not a soft state' and 'Pakistan should take a lesson from history' are meaningless. The problem is that we aspire to be a 'USA of South Asia' but there is no planning on the ground.

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We have fared better than Pakistan mainly in the economic terms and no matter how much our population is, the fact that our western neighbour possesses a nuclear weapon clearly nullifies any military advantage in favour of us. The politically unstable nation also makes it very difficult for us to allow it to go to hell. For if Pakistan indeed crumbles in another 25-30 years or so, New Delhi will find it horrendous to conduct its western policy, if at all there is any. We need Pakistan for our own good.

The butchering of the Indian soldiers can not be just seen in isolation. True, any death is tragic but before accusing the Pakistani regular or irregular soldiers, we should ask our own government whether it takes enough care of its own men and look beyond treating them as mere pawns? They were conveniently forgetting Captain Saurabh Kalia but the latest killing revived the ghosts. A news person was yelling: Where are the human rights groups? But whom should these groups target? Does a government that ignores its own protectors' welfare deserve a let off?

A huge section of the common man in this country doesn't know what's really happening at the borders. Just like the Pakistani establishment is accused of misleading its people against India, our media doesn't do any charitable work either. In fact, it is the normal practice. But if we just begin to believe in the hysteria that is being created by a section of the media and just eye for a revenge, the situation is not going to improve. We are frustrated because our crippled foreign policy has failed to deliver expected lines several times.

Barring the 1971 Bangladesh War, India has not succeeded much in taming Pakistan. Continued infiltration, terror attacks and insurgency prove that. India could do little apart from executing a terrorist who was caught alive during the dreadful 26/11 attack while it is still to find out a way with many other terrorists.

The BJP is protesting the LoC killings but how much change in the country's foreign policy could it author during its full tenure between 1999 and 2004?

India made a right decision by not allowing a third-party mediation this time but it again shows that New Delhi has lacked a consistent policy on Kashmir since Independence. Had Jawaharlal Nehru not internationalised the issue in those days, India's position today would have been different. But we made the blunder of allowing Pakistan a big space. Islamabad's historical ally, the USA, never cared to look after India's call on Kashmir till Pakistan was serving its own interests. Today, when the relation between Washington and Islamabad is far from good and Pakistan desperately trying to garner western support on the border issue, there is very little chance of the US poking its nose into the problem. For, the USA already has some big issues in hand in various parts of Asia, like in West Asia, Afghanistan and the Pacifics vis-a-vis China.

It is difficult to deal with Pakistan because that country has several power centres and nobody is sure who actually is in control. The onus for the killings definitely lies with Pakistan, but there is no certainty that it will make an organised attempt to address the issue. If we allow the situation to drift by trying some sort of coercive diplomacy, then we will be back into those old days of more blood-spilling. We have jointly worked out on issues like trade and visa regime and if we suddenly call for a battle with Islamabad, it will derail the entire engagement and that does not hold good for the future of South Asia.

The problem with understanding foreign policy is that it is a complex issue and made convenient and simplistic by the media for the consumption of commoners. It will be foolish to expect that India's foreign policy will change overnight because of the brutal killing of two soldiers. If it did not change after a battle in 1999, it won't during times of peace either. We can not just declare a war against Pakistan. The stakes are too high.

Do we just sit back then? No, we need a steady and sound leadership to guide as when it comes to Pakistan. At this moment, we are either cowed by the continuing militancy and media pressure at home or feel directionless because of the lacklustre leadership. India's benefits can only be long-term. We have an improved situation today compared to even what it was a decade back. No major terror attack has occurred since 2008. The incremental advantage that we gain should not miss our eyes.

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