“Operation Blue Star – Counterbalancing Terror – results in boomeranging horrible pain”
By Ravi Batra
The 1984 Operation Blue Star was the biggest internal security mission ever undertaken by the Indian Army. Operation Blue Star was Indira Gandhi’s solution to the haywire going law and order situation in Punjab.
Operation Blue Star was carried out between June 1 and June 8, 1984, in Amritsar.-EDITOR
“Leadership requires making choices – picking between not “good” and “bad,” but “bad” and “worse.” This Op-Ed is aimed at policymakers – to abandon counterbalance as a pillar of statecraft, and it’s noisy and genie-out-of-the-bottle progeny: state-sponsored Terrorism. It doesn’t work, and is very painful at the bitter end. Being “right,” and winning by “right means” permits an end – as a civil “trial by jury” does daily in our courts even for losers. Nations, however, continue to exercise “might is right,” when it really never was – given its lingering “tail”.”
The enemy of my enemy is my friend; or so goes the saying, lovingly followed by policymakers seeking a shortcut to victory for several millennia. Indeed, counterbalancing continues as a steady pillar of statecraft the world over. It matters not that ultimately it doesn’t work, and backfires with a painful boomerang.
Recall President Ronald Reagan’s “Freedom Fighters” in Afghanistan who we trained and equipped to fight the then-USSR’s excursion in Afghanistan to an unhappy exit. Then, after 9/11, when we were in hot pursuit of its mastermind OBL and ended up in Afghanistan – our Freedom Fighters became the Taliban we were fighting against. 40 years and lots of blood and treasure we have spent, only to make a recent Jello gelatin flexible peace-deal with the Taliban, and then cause the local government’s twin executives to sign on after the fact to make it operational, all so we may extricate ourselves from a war we cannot lose, nor win by civilized standards in a place where our values are alien to the local ecosystem. My takeaway: don’t use counterbalance; it’s sexy upfront, and painful as a nightmare divorce in the end. Recently, Kurds in Syria bear witness – as some of them became Terrorists against Turkey.
Well, let’s go back to 1971 – when the Blood Telegram sent from Dhaka was ignored in China-loving Richard Nixon’s Washington DC – and Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, moved to save the remaining Hindus in now-Bangladesh from genocidal demise. India secured a striking victory in short order that exceeded expectations and was decisive to boot. Pakistan was unhappy, to state the obvious. Nations have found that sponsoring Terror is attractive – because it is what I call – war on the cheap. Pakistan enjoyed such sponsorship as a rejoinder. India’s Punjab and Kashmir border Pakistan, and cross-border Terror-support in Sikh-rich Punjab was easier, as Sikhism’s founder, Guru Nanak’s immortal roots remain in Pakistan – a matter of great importance even now while celebrating His 550th Birthday in Nankana Sahib, Lahore Pakistan via opening the visa-free Kartarpur Corridor – thanks to P. M. Imran Khan and P. M Narendra Modi – which nations and people of goodwill celebrate.
So after 1971, Pakistan’s cross-border sponsorship was for Khalistan to be born – perhaps, as a nation for a nation – with three Sikh leaders Shabeg Singh, Balbir Singh, and Amrik Singh turned separatists, who were allegedly taught tactics more familiar to Terror in Pakistan. As a result, India suffered a porous border and a porous state in Punjab and Kashmir, such that India’s sovereignty would be an afterthought if not stopped. Mrs. Gandhi decided to fight fire with fire, and allegedly “sponsored” a genuine Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Ultimately, he and his armed supporters came under threat of arrest, being un-controllable by Delhi, and took refuge in the Golden Temple – the holiest Harmandir Sahib – and Operation Blue Star was born in June 1984 to turn back the hands of time and Statecraft’s expediently sexy counterbalance pillar. When first trying to peacefully end the stalemate and get the innocent pilgrims released failed over two days, as the separatists were armed with even Chinese-made grenade-launchers, on June 5th military force was initiated to forcibly evict Terrorists from the house of worship. That goal would be tough enough without religion being implicated; but attacking the holiest Sikh Gurdwara – a sanctuary – with 10,000 booted soldiers was successful in a military sense, but a failure by all other metrics. Harmandir Sahib was severely damaged, ancient scripts and artifacts forever lost in the “firefighting fire.” Thereafter, while the Indian Government rebuilt it, the Sikh community tore it down and rebuilt it afresh – perhaps, as we recently tore down our newly built embassy in Moscow and rebuilt it anew.
The price of counterbalancing Pakistan’s punishment – trying to create Khalistan for loss of her East Pakistan – was that Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984 by her favorite bodyguard, Beant Singh, and Satwant, both Sikhs – whom she insisted upon keeping. What followed was nothing short of a bloodbath – known as the Anti-Sikh Riots or worse – where even innocent Sikhs were hurt, injured and even killed and some members of the Indian Congress party were allegedly directing the Sikh-killings in an opportunistic manner – a stain that India has dealt with (and still has to remedy) as we did for interning loyal Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor some 40 years later.
Recall in 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act to compensate more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated in internment camps during World War II. The Law offered a formal apology and paid $20,000 in compensation to each surviving victim.
Leadership requires making choices – picking between not “good” and “bad,” but “bad” and “worse.” This Op-Ed is aimed at policymakers – to abandon counterbalance as a pillar of statecraft, and it’s noisy and genie-out-of-the-bottle progeny: state-sponsored Terrorism. It doesn’t work, and is very painful at the bitter end. Being “right,” and winning by “right means” permits an end – as a civil “trial by jury” does daily in our courts even for losers. Nations, however, continue to exercise “might is right,” when it really never was – given its lingering “tail.” A lesson China will learn from its current collective and sequential miscalculations: Tibet, Uighurs, OBOR with AIIB, exporting Wuhan Virus (lab-engineered as it has the Spike Glycoprotein (S) spliced off the 2003 SARS Bat viruses and transplanted onto the surface of the AIDS virus in 2019 – see, my April 14, 2020 “Open Letter to POTUS et al” in public domain – recently re-confirmed by former head of MI6) as a global Pearl Harbor, with it’s cover-up, followed not by an apology and compensation, but added belligerence in South China Sea and Hong King, and inter alia, converting diplomacy, a channel most useful during disputes and war, and instead burning it by making diplomats act as a “Wolf Warrior” commando doing battle. That our Hollywood celebrates Chinese-Americans and China is starkly in contrast to the steady anti-American diet fed by Chinese Communist Party leadership to her people. That is both strategic, as it is tactical – something President Trump, Secretary Esper, Speaker Pelosi and Leader McConnell ought digest, as we too have our nation to defend in present time from folks we saw as friends, since Nixon, but who played us.
Disclosure: I legally represented Indian National Congress and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, merely a loving wife, mother and daughter-in-law in 1984, when they were sued by a so-called entity, Sikhs for Justice, under the Alien Tort Claims Act in United States Federal Courts in New York – SDNY and EDNY. I successfully argued that India, where all events occurred and all actors reside, was ineligible for US courts to exercise extra-territoriality and it was for India to remedy this stain. The lofty U. S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued two orders in 2014 and 2015, respectively, agreeing to dismiss the cases pursuant to US law. Thereafter, Rahul Gandhi, adopting my legal filings, gave an interview to Arnab Goswami confirming for the first time that “some” Congressmen were complicit in misconduct. SFJ’s subsequent cases against then-PM Manmohan Singh and PM Narendra Modi were dismissed, based upon the precedents I secured, along with application of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, as Prime Ministers, as head of government, are so entitled – which neither INC or INC President Sonia Gandhi was so entitled. Now, SFJ is out of the media-rich harassing litigation, but, allegedly, based upon reports, may be subject to Foreign Agent Registration Act given its foreign supporters.”
(The author is a senior attorney and Chair, National Advisory Council South Asian Affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)