India Talks Tough After Pulwama Attack

Published : Feb 27, 2019 01:46 pm | By: M D Sridharan

The impact of the terror unleashed by JeM in Pulwama has triggered anger not only across the country but also at the global level. As a result, the hostilities between the two nations have increased with India demanding that Pakistan crackdown on the terr

After the dastardly act by the Pakistan based extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Pulwama claiming the lives of 40 jawans, the mood of the nation is absolutely anti Pakistan. Even the opposition parties rallied behind the government by condemning the Pulwama attack. The killing of CRPF jawans united political parties and brought back painful memories of the 2016 Uri attack in which 18 soldiers were killed and revived calls for surgical strike’s version 2.0.

With the majority of the Indian population calling for total boycott of Pakistan, people carried out several shows of solidarity across the country. The demonstrations staged across the country were spontaneous, apolitical and the general public displayed their frustration and anger by carrying a variety of placards that displayed their anger against Pakistan.         

According to a survey on the India-Pakistan relationship by PEW Research Centre, 72 percent Indians look at Pakistan unfavourably. Among these 64 percent of the respondents have a very unfavourable view of Pakistan, the highest level recorded since Pew began measuring in 2013. It should be noted that the survey was done in December, 2017. Now, one can imagine what would be the results, if the survey is done in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack.

Also, today it is very much evident that the overall reputation of the Indian Army has gone up several folds in the minds of the common man. While, the continued devastation unleashed by the terrorists time and again has really angered the common man on one side, it has also inculcated a sense of feeling for the Mother land on the other side.

The scale and devastation of the Pulwana terror strike has caused an outrage comparable to that of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. By and large the people are deeply worried about the terror strikes and have lost patience over the repeated terror attacks executed in the Indian soil. Undoubtedly, the issue of terrorism binds a diverse nation. As Pakistan continues to pose severe threat to India’s national security, the chorus “Boycott Pakistan” reverberated across the Indian sub-continent cutting across caste and religious lines. The demand ranges from trade to sports to cultural shows to finally sharing of water.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tributes to the CRPF martyrs and sent out a strong message.  Talking tough on Pulwama attack, Modi promised the nation that the perpetrators of the attack would be punished.  Modi said: “The fire that is raging in your bosoms is in my heart too and promised that the sacrifice of the jawans will not go in vain”.  Post Pulwama, Modi on several occasions has  warned Pakistan of a “befitting, jaw-breaking response”. He alerted Islamabad that the blood of the Indians is boiling and it will “pay a heavy price” for its act of terrorism and with a touch of ominous foreboding: “army has been given complete freedom to act”.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said India should take tough coercive action against Pakistan, could be military, diplomatic or economic, or a combination of all three. "We should get 82 of them since 41 of our men have been killed", asserted Captain Amarinder Singh, who was an army officer before joining politics. He demanded an "eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth".

Even as the Punjab Chief Minister talked about taking tough action against Pakistan, his cabinet colleague, Navjot Sidhu, as usual made unsavoury comments. Siddhu said that a nation cannot be held responsible for the acts of terrorists. Obviously, his comments were not taken lightly by the government as it was seen to support Pakistan and its Prime Minister Imran Khan despite New Delhi's strong resolve to work for Pakistan's isolation. Siddhu was panned by the opposition Akali Dal which demanded his resignation.

Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Mamata Banerjee broke away from other parties and sharpened attacks on the Modi government by seeing political motives behind the BJP leaders’ anti-Pakistan rhetoric. Banerjee struck a discordant note in the charged up atmosphere of nationalism and patriotism, accusing the Modi government of engaging in a shadow war with Pakistan just before the Lok Sabha polls.

“Is it only when elections are knocking on the door, that you are thinking of getting the country involved in another war, to play a shadow war and with the lives of people?” she asked. Accusing the NDA government of lapses and demanding fixing of responsibility for the incident, she alleged that Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah are delivering speeches daily and pretending to be the only patriots in the country.

India Talks Tough

After the attack, India has tried to isolate Pakistan diplomatically. Major countries like US, Israel, France, Russia, Germany and the United Kingdom unequivocally condemned the Pulwama terror attack and extended their support to India in their fight against terrorism.  The government said over 40 countries have supported India. India has been trying to get, Masood Azhar, JeM Chief, listed as a designated terrorist under the 1267 Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council. However, China has been blocking India’s bid in UN citing lack of evidence.

While, India continues to mourn its 44 CRPF brave hearts who perished in the Pulwama attack, within five days after the gruesome attack the Indian Army gunned down the mastermind of the suicide attack on CRPF convoy.  JeM commander and Pulwama attack mastermind Kamran alias Abdul Rashid Gazi, along with two of his aides, was hunted down by the security forces within five days of the RDX suicide bombing of a CRPF bus.

Also as immediate fallout of the attack, the Jammu and Kashmir administration decided to withdraw the security cover of five separatist leaders in the Valley who are known to be proxies of Islamabad. These included Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Lone, Hashim Qureshi and Shabir Shah. However, pro-Pakistan separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani is likely to continue enjoying the security cover. According to the order by the administration of the state, which has been under President’s rule since December last year, security and vehicles provided to the separatists will stand withdrawn? The move is expected to save Rs 10 crore annually. 

MFN Status:

India withdrew the ‘most-favoured nation’ status to Pakistan following the deadly Pulwama terror attack and said it will take all steps to isolate the neighbouring country globally. In  the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security(CCS) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance minister Arun Jaitley said, “The most favoured nation status to Pakistan stands revoked”. Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status is given to a trade partner to ensure non-discriminatory trade between two countries. India granted MFN status to Pakistan in 1996. Talking tough, Jaitley said those aiding and abating the perpetrators will have to pay a heavy price.

He said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will initiate all possible diplomatic steps which are to be taken to ensure complete isolation of Pakistan in the international community. He also added, “Incontrovertible evidence” is available of Pakistan’s direct hand in this gruesome terrorist attack.

Trade

After the Pulwama attack, not only has India tried to stifle Pakistan by courting global support to declare it a terror monger, but the Modi government has also made efforts to cripple its economy by increasing duties on essential products. Pakistan's total exports with India stood at Rs 3,482.3 crore in 2017-18. The ripple effect of the customs duty hike will ultimately affect small traders who are staring huge financial losses, say experts.

In fact, Indian cement importers have already cancelled orders placed with Pakistani traders. Indian importers have asked Pakistani cement exporters to recall containers after the customs duty hike. It is estimated that around "600-800 containers loaded with cement" were stuck at Karachi Port, high seas or at Colombo and Dubai".  The cement traders in Pakistan are ruing over the rising tension between both the countries.

Pakistan currently exports fruits ($112.8 million per year), cement ($78.3 million), chemicals ($60.4 million), fertilisers ($34.9 million), and leather and allied products to India. However, a larger look at trade activities between India and Pakistan reveals that import and export between India and Pakistan has been declining since 2014-15. Through the Attari-Wagah border alone, India's export has declined significantly from Rs 2,117 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 131 crore in 2018-19. The import, too, has seen a sharp fall from Rs 2,368 crore in 2014-15 to 721 crore in 2018-19. Pakistan allows the imports of as many as 138 items from India through the Wagah border.

Stop flow of Water to Pakistan

Nitin Gadkari, Union minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, said the government is working on project to divert water from three rivers flowing into Pakistan. He said both the countries hold the right to use water flowing in three rivers each under the Indus Waters Treaty signed in 1960. But India has not utilised river waters it is permitted to use under the agreement. Gadkari said, “The construction of dam has started at Shahpur - Kandi on Ravi river. Moreover, UJH project will store our share of water for use in J&K and the balance water will flow from 2nd Ravi-Beas Link to provide water to other basin states.”

Nitin Gadkari issued a stern warning to Pakistan over Pulwama attack and said that water  from riversSutlej, Beas and Ravi on which India has full rights will be diverted to Yamuna by building projects. “After partition three rivers were divided by India and Pakistan and water from three rivers within India’s rights was flowing to Pakistan. We have constructed projects which will be  diverted to Yamuna and it will have more water”, said Gadkari .

Masood Azhar warns Pakistan

Amidst raising global outcry, Pakistan finally acted and reinstated the ban on Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (juD) and Fatah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) and, both fronts of Laskar-e-Taiba. But, however there is no official word on action against the Jaish-e-Mohammed,

At the same time, unfazed by the Indian government’s rhetoric, the mastermind of multiple terror attacks against India, including the Parliament attack, Uri, Pathankot and Pulwama attacks, Masood Azhar warned the Imran Khan government against buckling under Indian pressure and taking action against him in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack.

Masood Azhar said, ''Pakistan's response to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's threats post Pulwama was rather lukewarm and lacklustre. It appears Pakistan is scared of India.'' Azhar claims he is disappointed by Pakistan's response and warned the Pakistani government against taking action against him buckling under India's pressure.

Analysts in Srinagar see Masood Azhar's rant as a desperate attempt as the JeM terrorists in the areas around Pulwama are currently on the run. Azhar also fears that the Pakistan government, coming under pressure, may be forced to act against him. So he is threatening his own government with consequences," experts point out.

Modi Govt. Needs to Act

Though it is the duty of the government to necessarily allay public anger in matters of national security, there exists a palpable demand to retaliate in the case of the Pulwama attack and the retaliation must be several degrees higher than the "surgical strikes" post Uri. Surely, Modi government is facing a dilemma as already the Opposition has been racking up the issue of intelligence failure over the Pulwama attack.  If Modi fails to act, or if his actions do not match the level of retaliation that he has promised, then he may suffer a loss of credibility and be punished in the elections.

This is also the fact why the Congress-led Opposition has largely rallied behind the government. Modi government has on one hand, sends a strong message of solidarity and amity, and on the other, it creates space for the Opposition to highlight the gap between the government’s promise and action.

By declaring that his government has given the Security forces complete freedom to retaliate or launch strikes against Pakistan,  Modi has shifted the onus of action on security forces. But still, the fact remains that the final responsibility lies on his shoulders that too in the election year.

While it looks like that Modi may have taken the risk of matching his words with actions, but at the same time the cost of not issuing such threats at this juncture would have been even greater.

Amit Shah has also highlighted the Modi’s assurance to the nation that the sacrifice of our martyrs shall not go in vain. “130 crore Indians stand in solidarity with the families of the courageous heroes who devoted their life in service of the nation. Generations to come will remember their valour,” said Shah.

Modi realises that after the 2016 surgical strikes, public expectations from his government on punishing Pakistan are very high. He knows that the NDA government would need to go beyond statements and symbolic diplomatic offensive and that too in the short period of six weeks before the Lok Sabha polls are announced and the 60-day model code of conduct comes into play, reducing his regime to an interim government with limitations to take strong decisions.

As history has shown, including the 1965 and 1971 wars, the Kargil conflict of 1999 and the 2016 surgical strikes, India has registered huge military success against Pakistan only when it has shown an element of surprise and a strong willingness to escalate conflict. However, with national elections looming India cannot afford to have a conflict that lasts long.

While the international community has shown solidarity with India, the Modi government also has to be mindful of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence and take steps not to breach the red line.

The big test for the BJP government, that too in an election year, is to ensure that the military response to the Pulwama attack does not fall short of public expectation. The BJP’s political opponents may, during the poll campaign, be tempted to hit out at the Modi government if the response fails to address the sagging morale of the grieving nation. The NDA government has to demonstrate how its response to terror organisations is different from the softer approach by previous UPA governments that failed to retaliate even after the 2001-02 terror attack on Parliament and the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.

 

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