This is the first of a series of articles I am going to write on the Modi Government. I am taking up first the Pulwama outrage and its aftermath, which have a great bearing on our national security.
The following are the facts over which there is no dispute.
1. On 14 February 2019 a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into a CRPF convey, resulting in the deaths of 40 Jawans.
2. On 26 February 2019, India launched a counter-terror operation in Balakot, a place inside Pakistan.
3. The very next day, Pakistan retaliated and the result was that India lost a MiG-21 in aerial combat and the pilot was captured. He was handed over to India on 1 March 2019. A Helicopter went down on 27 February 2019 and several military personnel were killed.
4. India’s bid to get the UN to declare Masood Azhar a terrorist was foiled by the veto of China.
Government of India has come out with its versions of these events and there are several holes in them. It is stupid and undemocratic to argue that the Government of India’s versions cannot be questioned at all and all those who do that are anti-nationals. India, until today, is a democracy. Modi is a democratically elected leader and not the emperor of India. Every Indian citizen has a right to raise questions, however uncomfortable they might be. That is what democracy is all about.
When the Second World War is full swing and when Churchill was leading Britain, a no confidence motion was brought against him on 2 July 1942. The motion read as follows: “That this House, while paying tribute to the heroism and endurance of the Armed Forces of the Crown in circumstances of exceptional difficulty, has no confidence in the central direction of the war.” Thought the motion was defeated the event remains one of the finest examples of how democracies function.
The Pulwama Attack:
The first question every sensible person would ask about the attack was the massive intelligence failure that led to a suicide bomber ramming his vehicle into the convoy. In fact, the Governor of J&K, Malik, said this almost immediately: “There has been some security lapse because the car laden with explosive was allowed to move along with the convoy of CRPF. We will investigate.” Every newspaper initially spoke about the security lapse. All of a sudden, a curtain of silence had surrounded the issue and today no newspaper speaks about the need to investigate the lapse of security that led to the attack. It must be remembered that when Bombay attack happened the then Home Minister resigned. In this case, we all know that home minister is just a puppet and the puppeteers are Modi and his henchman, Doval. Morally speaking, the Prime Minister should have offered his resignation or at least apologized to the nation for what had happened. He did no such thing. He was busy shooting a film when the incident happened and remained incommunicado for long, crucial hours. As a leader of a democratic country, he also had a duty to brief the opposition, however much he reviled it. He did no such thing. He behaved exactly like a Fuehrer. Until now it is not clear whether or not an investigation has been ordered but our media is so supine that it is afraid to ask the Government any questions on the subject. Samajwadi party’s Ram Gopal Yadav has been more forthright. He says: “Paramilitary forces are anguished with the government. Jawans were killed for votes and there was no checking between Jammu and Srinagar. The jawans were sent in simple buses. This is a conspiracy.” It is incumbent on the Modi government to respond to this serious accusation and tell the nation what had actually happened. Our soldiers need a reassurance from the government that they are not being used as cannon fodder. They will be reassured only when the persons who were responsible for the terrible security lapses that led to the Pulwama attack were identified and punished.
The Balakot Attack:
What is indisputable is that Indian planes targeted the seminary at Balakot and dropped bombs on it. Pakistan also admits it. What is in dispute is the number of deaths that were supposed to have occurred because of the attack. Pakistan says nobody died. In India, every one has his or her favourite figure. If one is a Modi supporter the deaths were in hundreds. If one is not, there were no deaths to gloat about. My personal opinion is that deaths had indeed occurred. Otherwise, Pakistan had no reason to react the way it did. Also, the seminary complex is still isolated and hermetically sealed. But my opinion does not matter at all. What matters is that the world is not convinced that there have been significant casualties and that Pakistan government has managed to convince its people that India has not been able to do anything significant in Balakot.
Again, if Modi had behaved like a democrat the issue would not have degenerated into a political slugfest. He should have immediately called for a joint session of the Parliament and informed the elected members what had actually happened. He should have also called the main leaders of the opposition privately and appraised them. He did no such thing. He behaved exactly like an emperor. What the supporters of Modi conveniently forget is that it is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to convince the opposition and not the other way around. It will be the height of arrogance and pure fascism to hold a view that there is no need to convince the opposition.
According to Pakistan, she fired a few missiles into empty fields within Indian territory to prove a point that she too was capable of bombing Indian establishments, if she had really wanted to. The Indian version was that Pakistan used an F-16 aircraft to drop bombs on Indian military installations and the aircraft was intercepted and shot down by the Indian Air Force plane MiG 21. Pakistan on the other hand has consistently maintained that she hasn’t lost any aircraft. What is beyond dispute is that India lost a MiG -21 and her pilot was taken prisoner and later returned. The helicopter crash which happened on the same day and resulted in the death of six IAF personnel was mysterious. There is a definite possibility of the helicopter having gone down owing to friendly fire. As usual the Indian press has played pliant role, except for Praveen Swami who has this to say: “New Delhi hasn’t publicly revealed that the IAF is investigating credible claims that the Mi-17V5 helicopter shot down over Budgam, Jammu and Kashmir, on 27 February may have been brought down by the country’s own air defence system. Pilots on the helicopter, IAF sources say, were cleared to land just as air defence systems at Humhama and Awantipora airbases went on high alert in response to Pakistan’s counter-strikes, leading to a missile operator firing in error.”
As regards the shooting down of the F-16, there are more questions than answers. The Indian Defence Review, a very prestigious journal, asks the following questions:
“Where were the other formation members when Wing Commander Abhinandan was engaging or chasing the F-16 and what did they do and observe?
Surely, the radio calls between them and from/to the situation controller would prove something towards our claim of downing the F-16. Also, if the MiG-21 was shot down immediately after the F-16, surely the F-16 wreckage should also be close to where the MiG-21 came down just a few kilometers across the LoC. If that be so, why is it that we have not been able to acquire the imagery of that crash site/wreckage? Also, why didn’t Abhinandan launch the longer range R-77 missile instead of choosing to chase the F-16 for an R-73 CCM launch, as has been reported?
Lastly, the training in the IAF had also taught us that a good fighter pilot never leaves behind a formation member and even stays with the downed teammate till he is rescued, if fuel and other conditions permit. So, did his formation members stay with him at least till his MiG-21 was shot at and couldn’t they together threaten the attacking aircraft?”
The Azhar Fiasco
If there was one occasion when our bragging Prime Minister ended up with international eggs on his face, it was this sordid episode of failing to get the UN to declare Azhar a terrorist. The entire exercise was useless in the extreme as it would not have changed the ground reality. The only reason Modi went ahead with this attempt was because he thought such a resolution would help him garner tremendous political mileage which he could use in the elections. China, very cruelly, called his bluff.
Sekhar Gupta lists five fatal follies of Modi Doctrine (whatever it is!). Of them these three are important:
1. Obsession with personalised foreign policy
2. The price of predictability
3. Perils of mixing foreign policy with domestic politics
He also makes an important point regarding the perils of being so predictable. “Modi is now publicly committed to a quick retaliation in case of major terror attacks. It gives (Pakistan) the power of orchestrating a crisis and drawing the world to the subcontinent at will. All they need is to tell the ISI to unleash another incident. Great leaders do not allow themselves to be ‘gamed’.”
While writing this, I realized that the Prime Minister had behaved exactly like I would do when I was being pestered by both Hindutva and Periyarist trolls. I would lose my cool and call them names, which was exactly what they had wanted to achieve. I can afford to be predictable and allow myself to be ‘gamed’, but not the Prime Minister of a great democracy.
The Score Card
1. The Pulwama attack: A very serious security lapse by the Modi government.
2. The Balakot attack: A military success (at least according to my assessment) but a grievous political failure mainly owing to the infernal arrogance of our Prime Minister.
3. The Retaliation: A failure overall. A victory for Pakistan.
4. The Azhar fiasco: A real disaster.
P A Krishnan