To get even for Pulwama massacre, Narendra Modi can use strategic silence to make noise, unnerve Pakistan

As the fires in the pyres of the 42 CRPF troops killed in the Pulwama terror attack die down and Indian rage expresses itself in the form of genuine anguish, the government, for once, is showing a certain maturity of thought and not being populist. Even Prime Minster Narendra Modi's final salute past the flag-draped coffins at Palam Airport had a grace about it under the fire and was suitably subdued, hitting a billion people in the gut.

In the aftermath of the massacre, Modi said there was a fire within him. Let this fire not burn but be used to play smart. Smolder and stay that way.

To get even for Pulwama massacre, Narendra Modi can use strategic silence to make noise, unnerve Pakistan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays tribute to the martyred CRPF jawans who died in the Pulwama attack. PTI

What is most inspiring in this adversity is the official silence over our retaliatory measures. Even the Opposition is quiet. That means we mean business. Nothing will put more pressure on Pakistan's fledgling government than being clueless about India's next move after its economic sanctions and the diplomatic offensive, which has attracted global empathy, not just sympathy.

Prime Minister Imran Khan's uneven playing field has boomeranged on him because he knows he has lost the toss with the Pulwama attack and that harboring terrorists in Pakistan will now come with a huge price tag.

With his nation already in a corner and fiscally bleeding, India's pressure could be more debilitating than any surgical strike.

For Modi, the Lok Sabha election ahead is not important. He uses strategy and tactics for the best results in terms of a payback, and he will romp home. Just do not grandstand. This current tactic of playing it close to the chest will pay dividends. This way, the enemy has no pivot, and as its conduits of information dry up, it would be a major detriment to have to dream up possible scenarios that India might have in mind. The adversary would then fall back on wild imagination, conjecture, inaccurate options and profound uncertainty.

If we, the public, media and bureaucrats, collectively create a curtain of total silence on our intent but underscore this intent at the same time, this will intensify. But we won't tell you what, where and how, so marinate in the tension.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop and receiving only a deliberate silence can be agonising in its suspense. Non-engagement can have the enemy feeling isolated, jumpy and stressed. It is one of the top four strategies of conflict in military history, and so far, we have been doing it right. Whether fiscal, military, diplomatic or out of the traditional thought box, India is maintaining silence.

In 2016, the Washington Post carried an article outlining how silence was the most potent weapon in any negotiation. The longer it is drawn out, the more jittery and confused the other side gets. It cannot read your mind, and it is not accustomed to this situation. John Barkai, a law professor at the University of Hawaii, had said in a white paper, "By using silence, you hope the other side will speak (to their disadvantage)."

All too often, the other side needs to break that impasse and offer some sort of truce or proof, and in this surrender of space begins the end of the battle. It was inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci who had said, "Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence."

In 1986, a secret document was found on a discarded IBM machine that called "World War III" the "quiet war". In this lengthy report, the essence of the "silent weapon" was discussed critically:

Everything that is expected from an ordinary weapon is expected from a silent weapon by its creators, but only in its own manner of functioning.

It shoots situations, instead of bullets; propelled by data processing, instead of chemical reaction (explosion); originating from bits of data, instead of grains of gunpowder; from a computer, instead of a gun; operated by a computer programmer, instead of a marksman; under the orders of a banking magnate, instead of a military general.

It makes no obvious explosive noises, causes no obvious physical or mental injuries, and does not obviously interfere with anyone's daily social life.

Yet it makes an unmistakable noise, causes unmistakable physical and mental damage and undoubtedly interferes with the daily social life that is unmistakable to a trained observer, one who knows what to look for.

The public cannot comprehend this weapon and, therefore, cannot believe that they are being attacked and subdued by a weapon.

And it is exactly this option the Indian government has adopted as the first measure — don't let anyone know what you are thinking on any front. Just do what you have to do when you think it is right. And do it when the enemy is tired of trying to preempt you with guesses. Wear them down with the sounds of silence.

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Updated Date: Feb 18, 2019 09:20:14 IST

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