Don’t take rhetoric so high that not living up to it becomes a source of embarrassment. Not many associated with the ruling establishment get this. Fortunately, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been measured in his response to the Uri attack as any mature prime minister should be. Not so the likes of Ram Madhav though. The senior BJP leader, who is also the party’s man in charge for Jammu and Kashmir, has asserted that the days of strategic restraint are over; it has to be the whole jaw for one tooth.
Was he spelling out the government’s course of response in advance? Or was he only responding emotionally to a critical situation? Whatever it is, senior functionaries ought to be more restrained in situations like this. It needlessly raises the stakes too high and reduces the space for manoeuver for the decision-makers. It also builds expectation among the ordinary masses which the final action of the government may not meet. For example, such statements may make immediate assault on Pakistan look as the fitting response to the Uri attack. But the government might go for a more calibrated approach, biding its time to hit back. The delay might not go down well with people seeking quick revenge. They would call the government weak and lose faith in it.
The media jingoists have concluded that the attack calls for a tit-for-tat response. Pakistan has thrown a direct challenge to India and it has to be taught a lesson, quick and harsh. After talking so loudly about muscular response to all acts of Pakistan’s misadventure for so long the government cannot just evade action - this is the prevailing mood among this section. That they offer no clarity on what the ‘strong and fitting’ response should be though the word ‘war’ is suggested in hints. They forget easily that war is not an easy option for the country. The collateral damage can be heavy on India, a country slowly building itself into an economic powerhouse.
But they can afford to be foolish and irresponsible; they don’t have to make decisions. That is not the case with the government. It has to weigh the pros and cons of every action. That a section of public opinion favours rash military action cannot be justification enough for it to go to war, particularly against a country that has and won’t be averse to using nuclear weapons in its possession. It’s good that the government has decided not to act in a hurry. Media reports suggest it has decided to intensify diplomatic and economic offensive against Pakistan. This is a more mature response to the situation at hand.
Perhaps it could begin with having a re-look at its approach to Kashmir. The absence of a clear policy in the Valley is conspicuous. The government appears to be guided more by nasty opinion manufactured in television studios and its own rhetoric than pragmatic consideration of the ground realities in the troubled state. The consequences have been disastrous. The more Kashmir is in turmoil the more it is convenient for Pakistan to interfere. The policing approach to a political problem does not simply work.
For its own good, it should restrict its members from resorting to bravado. The big talk so far may have cockled the hearts of hyper nationalists at home, but it has not, as evidence suggests, exactly made Pakistan squirm in its pants. If they keep up the ante up despite repeated blows from across the border, the government stands to lose respect of its own people. The prime minister must ask all to let government do its business in peace and stop playing to the gallery in serious matters.