Military Response Will Be Disastrous

India is weighing options to retaliate against Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama attack which killed more than 40 CRPF personnel. And one of them is the military action against the neighbour. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has indicated this  in his speeches. He has talked of avenging the tears of the families of the victims. He has talked of the fitting punishment to the perpetrators and supporters of the Pulwama attack. Similarly, a military response is the dominant feature of the political and media discourse. A section of the media, as usual, has resorted to outright war-mongering. In the process, they have manufactured a public opinion baying for revenge which, in turn, is putting pressure on the government to act.

 And the government can hardly ignore this demand when elections are around the corner. Now several retaliatory options from yet another surgical strike to air strikes are  being discussed in public. On its part, the government  has said it has given complete freedom to the armed forces to respond at a place and time of their own choosing.  

However, while all these options are being discussed with exuberance,  no thought is given to their fallout, especially the unintended consequences. The atmosphere has been charged  so much with the demand for a dramatic retaliatory action, that its potentially devastating consequences for the region seem to be last thing on anyone's mind. And this is dangerous. Such an environment encourages recklessness, a resort to actions more for a dramatic effect than fulfilling a strategic objective. 

Also if by any chance the Modi-led government is finding itself hard-pressed to act visibly and dramatically, it has itself to blame. The public groundswell on the streets for revenge is the creation of its own toxic politics. This politics, in turn, has allowed a large latitude for the sections of media to ply a twisted, divisive version of events for their potential to drive up TRPs. And this, in turn, not only builds pressure on the government to resort to a knee-jerk reaction but also divides society. The ongoing violence against Kashmiris across the country is largely the  result of the narrative being purveyed by a section of the media.  

But the rhetoric emanating from the government circles is also not one of restraint.  This is dangerously narrowing down India's response to Pulwama attack to  the exercise of  a military option against Pakistan. In response, Pakistan has sought UN intervention to de-escalate tension with with India. And in any military confrontation, it would be Islamabad's effort to involve the international community and internationalize Kashmir issue.  So while a military response may suit the ruling party heading into election, it will not be in the interest of India. The situation needs a much measured and mature response and more importantly confronting the issues that underpin the lingering violence in Kashmir. 

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