For an action that is apparently supported by everyone across the political spectrum, the Indian surgical strikes have unleashed an inordinate amount of controversy that is playing out in a particularly virulent manner. The act of asking for proof, albeit in the guise of helping silence the claims of the Pakistani government, has caused an uproar that is noisy even by Indian standards. At a more fundamental level, it is being argued that any attempt to ‘question the Army’ is unpatriotic.
As far as the specific issue of asking for proof that the surgical strikes did take place goes, the demand, however, it is couched, is a troubling one. The manner in which it is being asked for is transparently opportunistic and does people like Mr. Kejriwal no credit. More importantly, any doubt expressed about whether the Indian action happened at all in effect calls the DGMO a barefaced liar, and to do so at a time like this based on claims made by a hostile neighbor is utterly misguided. As it is, what evidence that has been put in the public domain by news reports, suggests that the action did take place, which renders the question meaningless.
In any case, such an attempt, apart from being in danger of being deemed unpatriotic, is also counter-productive for it produces exactly the opposite of the intended effect. It galvanizes the very vocal and emotionally charged support base of the government, which on this issue is even larger and more vocal than otherwise. It does not help matters when Rahul Gandhi adds his bit, for his intervention is guaranteed to make things worse thanks to his unique ability to strike a note that is precisely wrong. The opposition would have been much better served by supporting the government’s action and refrained from trying to corner the government, using Pakistan’s position as cover.
The larger question of whether the Army should be questioned at all, however, is another matter altogether. Like any public institution, the army is an instrument of the state, and by extension, of the people. Like any other institution, it is subject to being examined critically. Given the sensitivity of some of its actions, not everything about the military can be in the public domain, but it certainly does not enjoy immunity from all scrutiny.
After all, across the world, armies of nations have done some indefensible things- from acting against its own citizens to overthrowing democratically elected governments. Inherently, the power of any kind needs checks and balances and the army is no exception. Pakistan is a prime example of a nation that has been bedeviled by the unchecked power exercised by its army.
It is important here to separate the ideas of patriotism and the right to ask questions of the army. It is instructive to look to another arena where patriotism and vocal displays of patriotism play such a key role- cricket. And while the real war is a far cry from cricket, some similarities do apply. There is no question that in a cricket match, support for the Indian cricket team is absolute. Whether one agrees with the selection or not, and regardless of whether one thinks that the batsman chasing a stiff target is selfish or incompetent or both, when it comes to the crunch the nation rallies behind the team. The ability to criticize one’s team, however bitterly, does not come in the way of supporting it wholeheartedly on the field. In principle, we can ask the question of the army and simultaneously support it fully, without reservations.
Part of the fulsome regard that is being expressed for the military is self-serving, both in terms of politics and commerce. The line between the ;army cannot be questioned’ and ‘my actions/beliefs cannot be questioned’ is a thin one. Media, in particular, is guilty of playing to the gallery in the most craven way. The centrality of the army that is apparently on display is not backed by behavior- over the years little has been done to get it a better deal, either in terms of compensation or in terms of equipment. Blind reverence and studied indifference are often two sides of the same coin, and our treatment of the army is a good example of that.
In principle, it is important to resist making the military such an integral part of our overt political discourse. To link national pride so inextricably with the actions of the army, to make its intentions and strategies so central to our everyday consciousness is to divert our energies from more productive and pressing questions. At a deeper level too, there is a reason why democratically elected governments, keep the military out of the public domain as far as possible. To make the army a player in competitive politics with claims and counterclaims about military action (your surgical strike v/s my tit-for-tat operation) is to unwittingly make it an instrument of party politics, something that can have far-reaching consequences. Which the government should, in spite of potential short-term gains, be careful about using this action electorally.
This government has been elected on the back of a strong desire for development, but if one were to go by the competitive hyper-nationalism that occupies our attention every evening on TV, we would imagine that we are a people under permanent siege. A nation has many faces, and its military is an important part of its persona, but if it becomes the dominant aspect of the nation’s sense of self, then other priorities and freedom suffer. India is not defined by Pakistan, nor by terrorism, and regaining some perspective about this will be useful in dealing with the current situation more rationally. All that has happened so far is that a signal about Indian intent has been sent. Much more action will unfold in the due course of time. If we expend ourselves so completely so quickly, how will we react if real hostilities break out?
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.
very good article. even the last statement is spot on. india has to be on high alert now as the neighbors are not the ones who would go for a frontal attach or rebuttal but are cowards to infiltrate damage with the help of internal enemies and militants
the author misses the point; even if the army overstated its case so what !!! that is what was required at this point in time and we need to stand by the army. having neglected the army for the past 30 years we cannot but expect them to deliver on demand !!! that they are doing so proves a point ,, they are one motivated lot unlike the self appeasing political class that is vilifying every aspect of public life and society at large with its corruption of ideas and actions !!!
semantics are being played out by the author under the garb of analysis.the effect is,confusion not knowing the problem.army acts in the national interests,be it in dealing with paki terrorists or naxals,both of whom have sworn indian state as their enemy.thus army action cannot be questioned either by the author,the opportunistic opposition and legion of paki supporter bloggers.
indian military has killed more indian people than all the enemies combined in all the wars. military must be questioned when human rights are violated. assam, manipur, mizoram, meghalaya, nagaland, tripura, j&k, punjab, indian military has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
your concluding statement is brilliant and absolutely correct.......if we expend ourselves so completely so quickly, how will we react if real hostilities break out? ... this is the crux. a lot of foolish people are chest beating as if some war has been won. what india has done is to give a rap on the knuckles and has done so in style. no more than that. 70 years of living with a hate-filled neighbour isn't going away in a hurry. my fellow indians, all this talk is okay but always be watchful.
absolutely ......... we need to be very careful ... these guys from the let and jem want us to precipitate an action ..... and we have been made very vulnerable by the neglect of the modernization of the armed forces over the past 15 years!!!! we are almost at parity and that is something that the pakistanis know and exploit !!!!
there is a simple equation to the whole story. all the opposition parties and their members are shit-scared that they will all be decimated to almost nil in future elections, due to these very surgical strikes, to which the present govt gave a nod. it is very clear that the army would never have been able to do so without the consent of the political rulers, taking into consideration the far reaching repercussions such an action would fetch. no one disbelieves in the capability of our armed forces who have time and again proven to be one of the best in the world. but, the fear in the minds of the politicians is that the ruling party will benefit the most due to the strikes, and hence, the idiots even question whether the strikes ever took place. it is utterly stupid for any one to even raise such questions when the dgmo him selves announced the strikes had taken place. that is why third rate politicians such as sanjay nirupam, as well as a cm of a state, a leader of the opposition party, and many such people started questions on the strikes. it is high time that these foolish politicians remember that this is not the time to do any thing which could demoralize our armed forces. elections will come and elections will go, parties will win and parties will loose, as per how they perform their duties towards their constituencies, people are no longer fools to be fooled by some gimmickry. the security of the country cannot be put to stake for any reason. let us all stand united and make our nation the leading most one.
the media is responsible for unnecessary hype in giving a higher value to what the opposition says to a group. we should find fault with media variety debates on the same. who bothers what salman khan or some other khan talks. other indian leaders are worried about muslims in india since they are evaluating their fortunes with the muslim vote support basis. left parties and some other parties claiming to be secular (their secularism is welfare of some one at the cost of poor people living in india hailing from all communities). is this not a pitiable situation. why rahul gandhy or any other congress party or other party leaders could not find time to console the family of a army soldier who was beheaded in 2013? why no help was extended to bereaved family? where as they find time to console a student who committed suicide because it was presumed that he belongs to a dalit family even after converting to some other faith. it is a shame on all the leaders questioning the army. our armed forces are very capable and brave but there was not political leaders' consent to carryout their retaliation and they are saying this the first time they got such nod to act in professional military operations. the iaf chief told that if they were given a nod by pm nehru they could have evacuated the pak from the part of kashmir encroached upon by it in 1947 last three months and now it is remaining in the hands of pak as pok and burning issue forever since the pak. declared that there cannot be peace unless kashmir is freed from india and allowed to remain independent so that they can encroach upon the remaining kashmir with the help terrorists. pm nehru extended all help to pak. in the water treaty also sacrificing the interests of the country and no treaty will be worse than this sacrificing the national interest. instead of giving a nod to army he referred it to uno which kept the matter peding resolution since then. pak. is asking for implementation of un resolution from indian side without complying what it has to comply with. pm lalbahdur shastri ceded the land evacuated by indian army in 1965 war between pak. and india due to international pressure and to appease them the tashkent agt. which was not liked by even his family resulting in his death in tashkent..
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