April 24, 2019

Cooking a frog: An analysis of the Indian response to Uri

It is said that if a frog is placed in hot water it will jump out immediately. However if a frog is put in cold water and a very small flame lit under so that the temperature of the water rises slowly, the frog will continue to sit there and get cooked alive.

India faces a unique situation in the aftermath of the Uri massacre by Pakistan. It was an audacious and obviously provocative act by the enemy that has outraged the people of this country. Tempers are high, as is to be expected, and even The Bookkeeper must plead guilty to a temporary lapse of reason on this count.

But the constant stream of outrage by well-meaning Right Wingers (RWs) with no constructive or incisive analysis set The Bookkeeper thinking. It is unlikely that the Pakistani general who ordered the cowardly attack on our soldiers did not anticipate this reaction from the Indian population. After all, we have a “nationalist Hindu” Prime Minister who was elected on the plank of being tough on terrorism etc. Surely at attack such as Uri would propel this nation to compel PM Narendra Modi to order some sort of a strike or hot pursuit.

So then isn’t it possible that a strike by India was Pakistani army’s base case scenario! In which case had India reacted violently, we would have played into the hands of the Pakistani army. Anyone with any sense of warfare will tell you, that in a war it is suicidal to do whatever the enemy is expecting.

What did the Pakistani military establishment expect to achieve with this ‘kriya-pratikriya’ that they tried to provoke then? Well, the answer is straight-forward to The Bookkeeper. It was a plan to destabilize the civilian leadership of Pakistan and takeover in a military coup.

It is widely speculated in foreign policy circles, that while countries have an army, Pakistan is an army with a country. An army needs funding. That funding comes only when the need for an army remains relevant. Everyone agrees that the leadership in Pakistan is divided between the civilian and the military, with the military having the upper hand (as anyone holding a gun to your head tends to have over you). It is no wonder that Pakistan has almost spent more time being ruled by military despots than by elected governments.

The Uri Gambit is another coup attempt by the Pakistani army, in the opinion of The Bookkeeper.

Since taking reins, Narendra Modi has very intelligently tried to bring the civilian leadership of Pakistan to the fore. Right from inviting Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in to dropping in ‘unannounced’ at a family function of the Sharifs, Modi has extended every possible personal courtesy possible. It is also not an accident that these instances were mentioned by the External Minister Sushma Swaraj in her speech to the UNGA.

The world has seen that Narendra Modi is such a personality that even those associated with him shine in his reflected glory. The Bookkeeper is willing to bet that a Narendra Modi hug or selfie will secure more votes for Nawaz Sharif than a dozen rallies by the Pak PM. It is this rising popularity of the civilian administration that has irked the military leadership. Heaven forbid that the elected PM of Pakistan be able to stand up to the military head!

As such it is scared of losing relevance and wants to take back the reins of power. However, with India having a no nonsense leadership, coupled with upcoming elections in the USA the military leadership is wary of taking a anti democracy step such as a military coup. More than anything else, The Bookkeeper would not be surprised if the Pakistani people have had enough of the military coups too!

However, a military coup may seem justifiable if there is a military aggression from India. In fact Pakistani army may even be in a position to spin such a coup as India’s fault. Imagine the fodder it would provide to the talking heads in Indian news media to discredit Narendra Modi for destabilizing the region. It would singlehandedly pour water over two years of international diplomacy handled by the Prime Minister himself.

It is in this context that the circumspect reaction of Narendra Modi makes you want to respect the man more. In face of an onslaught of taunts from his core supporter base he has ensured that he is doing the correct thing and not the popular thing. His first priority is to ensure that the Pakistani military does not get support from the Pakistani people. An open armed assault will do the exact opposite. It is for this reason that Modi chose to address the people of Pakistan directly in his party meeting rally at Kohzikode recently.

The best way to alienate the Pakistani army from the Pakistani people and civilian leadership is to walk a thin line. Punish the people, but only to the point when they hate their army for putting them through this, but don’t punish them so much that that they get desperate and back their army. Modi is walking this line. And this he has to do not just in fact but also in optics. At no point should Pakistan be able to project to the world that India has left it no choice but for military to forcibly assume leadership.

Steps such as re-looking at the Indus Water Treaty is a great start. Someone in Pakistan receiving a little less water is likely to get irritated at the Pak army for causing India to do this, rather than lead him to support Pak army. Banning Pakistani artists from India will be another great step. (I know Karan Johar doesn’t agree with it, but the day we take any advice from ‘KJo’ seriously, is the day hell is freezing over). Artists are (sadly) opinion makers in today’s 140 character world. It is this conviction that leads people like Aamir Khan want to talk about leaving India etc. Why is it not logical to assume that Pakistani artists enjoy a similar disproportionate mind space in their country? A Pakistani actor or singer not getting work in India and forced to settle in Pakistan may cause him/her to do more damage to the support for military leadership than a dozen op-eds. Another good way would be to make getting visas to India impossibly difficult. A Pakistani parent whose child is unable to get treatment in Narayana Hrudayalaya is going to be a better ambassador against the Pakistani army than whatever can be sent over in dossiers. A Pakistani trader who misses out on profit due to cancellation of MFN status, will champion the Indian cause more aggressively than the most vocal of RW intellectuals.

It is no wonder that even those talking heads and so-called diva journalists who are perceived by social media at large to be pro Pakistan are supporting hard (read: military) action against Pakistan but are vociferously campaigning against Pakistani actors being banned. It’s because they know military action will favour the military leadership in Pakistan while soft action will hurt them. See, so far the people of Pakistan have not borne the brunt of what their army does in India. Take the heat (not the fire) to them.

Narendra Modi, what was a brilliant move by the Pakistani army can be turned around on them. This is your chance, light a very low flame where the frog called the Pakistani army boils to death in the gradually heating water of Pakistani public opinion.

Featured image courtesy: http://atrueindependentscotland.com/boiling-frogs/

About The Bookkeeper 14 Articles
An intrepid accountant, investment analyst, ex fund manager, jyotish student, traveler and observer. Zinda hoon zindagi ka talabgar nahin hoon, Bazaar se guzra hoon, khareedar nahi hoon.