Narendra Modi's silence on LoC beheadings is emboldening Pakistan; it's time for decisive action

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence following the mutilation of two Indian soldiers on the Line of Control (LoC) could well be part of his strategy of keeping his cards close to his chest. The prime minister has a habit of working behind the scenes and saying nothing. But sometimes, that enigmatic option becomes a luxury.

Apart from a short and terse statement — about India never bowing its head and promising an apt response — there has been little pressure on Pakistan.

File image of Narendra Modi. Reuters

File image of Narendra Modi. Reuters

Even if one gives him the benefit of doubt, a nation that is hurting does need its leaders to lead from the front. There is a boiling rage in the country, and Indians per se feel that where Pakistan is concerned they are all too often left holding the thin edge of the wedge. Pakistan gets away with murder… literally.

On this occasion, Modi has let Defence Minister Arun Jaitley run with the ball and that is fair enough. But is it enough? Ever since the Kulbhushan Jadhav death sentence, Pakistan has been placing burrs under the Indian saddle and trying to get a rise out of New Delhi.

There is a school of thought which believes that Modi's refusal to speak out on these issues confuses the Pakistani trinity since they cannot second guess what he is thinking. So they have to contend with multiple scenarios regarding the possible repercussions. Perhaps they are right to an extent, but perceptions do have a role to play and the perception currently is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is weak on Pakistan.

There is no concerted action in the aftermath, and worse, no visible consequences. Last episode was Sajjan Jindal meeting Nawaz Sharif, ostensibly carrying a message from Modi. That was five days before Pakistan's Border Action Team (BAT) acted sans provocation to kill the soldiers. If there was a message, we received a reply!

Another couple of days will pass and the issue would have filtered into the back pages, and once again Pakistan would have gotten away with it. Not only that, but Islamabad has also created froth over the Indian "game of deception", and accused New Delhi of having cooked up this story. Its PR machine is going full throttle on throwing the ball into our court, and gradually gaining traction by shrilly demanding proof, claiming India is engaging in misadventures, saying nothing ever happened, etc.

In contrast, while the media and the masses are pushing for retaliation, the government is still weighing options. In that lies its weakness. By now, 70 years down this rocky road, we should have a Plan A and a back-up Plan B for all contingencies. That is what intelligence services do, they preempt, not react.

As for the nonsense about this grotesque incident not having occurred, who do you think was in the coffins? Closed coffins for obvious reasons. Paramjit Singh and Prem Sagar were bid farewell by their families and by a grateful and tearful nation, and even though there will be a freeze on relations this time, that does not seem to be enough.

India has to be seen to be taking concrete action. There are occasions when subtlety is not the answer. This is one of those.

Although one is loath to encourage warfare over stoning of soldiers under orders to restrain themselves, and these mutilations were clearly designed to lower the morale of Indian troops, a sharp and decisive military response is necessary.

Our forces are being hamstrung. Pakistan truly believes India will never up the stakes and a little comeuppance might be necessary. Time to stop being the nice guys and definitely time to stop sipping at the straw of the 2016 "surgical strikes" as evidence of intent. Those strikes are history.

Updated Date: May 03, 2017 12:57 PM

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