Time top cabinet leaders like the defence and foreign ministers learnt that you can’t fight overt and covert wars with stock phrases and hamming brave responses
Shantanu Datta | January 9, 2013
"A group of their (Pakistan’s) regular soldiers intruded across the Line of Control in Mendhar Sector on January 8. Pakistan army troops, having taken advantage of thick fog and mist in the forested area, were moving towards our posts when an alert area domination patrol spotted and engaged the intruders... The fire fight between Pakistan and our troops continued for approximately half an hour after which the intruders retreated towards their side of LoC. Two soldiers — Lance Naik Hemraj and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh — laid down their lives while fighting the Pakistani troops.”
That’s no hawkish TV anchor, baying for blood and a rise in television ratings at nine o’clock primetime news. It’s a statement issued by the Indian army's northern command, based in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir, following the beheading and killing of two Indian soldiers and injuring of two others in Poonch on Tuesday morning.
Nearly 24 hours on, India came out with a series of stock responses, with ministers using that cliché: highly provocative. "Pakistan Army's action is highly provocative. The way they treated the dead bodies of Indian soldiers is inhuman,” defence minister AK Antony said, according to PTI.
Like a brave general marshalling his troops for a forward march, he went on, for more special effect: “We will convey our protest to Pakistan government and our DGMO (director general of military operations) will talk to his counterpart. We are closely following the situation.”
Provocative is an extremely interesting adjective. It could either mean “causing anger or another strong reaction, especially deliberately”, according to Oxford dictionary, or “issuing strong statement under duress”, to believe the UPA government parlance.
Antony’s statement itself proves the inelegance with which Indian ministers treat the word. So what did “Pakistan army’s action” provoke (or incite, to use a better verb) our defence minister to do? Come up with some pretty interesting observations: that the act is “inhuman”. Really, Mr Antony? That’s the only adjective you could come up with. I thought the police action on the anti-rape protesters at India Gate was inhuman/heartless/ruthless. I am sure you could hunt up better phrases to describe a ghastly and barbaric slaughter and unprovoked aggression (and this isn’t even half as vitriolic as some TV anchors).
Next, the good defence minister says India will “covey protests” to Pakistan. Oh, come on, sir. As if they care!
Lastly, that pat solution for everything: “closely following the situation”. Aye, aye; as if that observations had helped the situation earlier.
Antony’s cabinet colleague, foreign minister Salman Khurshid, was sounded equally shocked: “This is inhuman. Extremely myopic, shortsighted. Has caused us tremendous hurt... It is not something of light nature, public opinion does not accept it... We want proportionate response… (will take) a collective view in the government.”
Inhuman? Aren’t all murders supposed to be inhuman any way? What’s extra special about this attack, then, that the external affairs minister is forced to say that it has caused the country “tremendous hurt”?
And what, pray, is that “proportionate response”? Never mind, the moment the Manmohan Singh-led government goes into a huddle, as Khurshid’s subsequent phrase “collective view in the government” indicates, Indians do not expect much more than some inane peacenik statement and quasi-anxious, pseudo-concerned and fully eager-not-too-sound-hawkish plea for public apology.
One is not asking for drone attacks across the LoC, like the US response to Pakistan’s muted response to Taliban elements on its soil is, or Israel’s attack on Gaza late last year. One is only looking at our tallest leaders to make appropriate response and gestures in retaliation to what even an editorial in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper called “the most serious incident of recent times” since the bilateral “ceasefire along the disputed border since November 2003”.
Those things, and the right noise matter in all overt and covert wars, respected sirs, despite the feigned ignorance with which the prime minister treats all needs to talk up, out and loud in his love for “khamoshi”, or silence.
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