Both sides need to serve national interest, not pride

    The Indian Defense Minister has warned Pakistan if it persists with its ‘adventurism, our forces will make the cost… unaffordable’. With a heavier Indian presence along the border, the cost has already become unaffordable for Pakistan. Unfortunately, with a weak government there and a military establishment that has an axe to grind, few in Pakistan are likely to be bothered by the cost in terms of civilian or even military casualties. That is the dynamics that has determined India-Pakistan relations, post Musharraf. As to what exactly is happening on either side of the border is hard for anyone not inside the top security echelons to know. But who fired the first bullet is not what matters. What matters is who has the confidence to hold fire, even momentarily, to give ceasefire a chance. The government in India is stable and secure, headed by a Prime Minister against whom one charge that cannot be leveled is of being weak or unsure. In fact, ever since Modi took over, the Indian response on the border has been unusually strident. Certain utterances by the Home Minister, or even the Defense Minister and a few other BJP leaders, referring to a changed and strong government in India are, therefore, jarring. It gives the impression that some of the decisions may be determined by the fact that the BJP leadership wants to be seen as strong, and not guided purely by security calculations. India may have the ability to respond overwhelmingly to any military initiative by Pakistan, but it stands to suffer on many counts in Jammu and Kashmir, which has seen a relatively peaceful period and is going to the polls. On its part, the Opposition too has been making matters worse by saying the government is doing nothing.

    Civilians are dying on both sides, and that is not collateral damage, as both armies would have us believe. It is targeted firing, and is doing good to neither side. As things stand, only one side has the stature to exercise restraint. India has sent Pakistan the message that needed to be conveyed. Now let us not make the message the news.

    (The Tribune, Chandigarh)

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