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Measured yet menacing

When it comes to Pakistan, I am a hawk. I have no patience with the way all Indian governments, including the one led by AB Vajpayee, have been pussyfooting around our neighbour. Sujata Anandan writes.

columns Updated: Jan 16, 2013 14:06 IST
Sujata Anandan

When it comes to Pakistan, I am a hawk. I have no patience with the way all Indian governments, including the one led by AB Vajpayee, have been pussyfooting around our neighbour. The Vajpayee government even held a peace dialogue with General Pervez Musharraf, the chief architect of the Kargil war. I cannot forget that it was during this war that the Pakistani army first showed its propensity to mutilate Indian soldiers against all conventions and human rights parameters.

But I do not believe in an eye-for-an-eye attitude. This is not because, as someone once famously said, such acts will only leave the whole world blind, but because I have always thought that India was better than Pakistan when it came to human rights. And, indeed, in terms of the national ethos that former President Shankar Dayal Sharma spoke of when the BJP demolished the Babri Masjid in 1992.

I believe the Indian - as well as Hindu - ethos is violated every time we speak of killing 10 for one - as Vajpayee had called for in Assam nearly 30 years ago leading up to the Nellie massacres and Sushma Swaraj is doing now by saying that if Lance Naik Hemraj Singh's head cannot be brought back, then India should get at least 10 heads from Pakistan. We are far too cultured and refined to do that - and how different would we be from Pakistan if we resorted to the same barbaric measures and deeds?

While it is obvious that Swaraj and other politicians are making political hay over such a tragedy, I am reminded of a comment made by a BJP leader more than a decade ago when his party was in power at the Centre. Bal Thackeray, the late Shiv Sena supremo, was indulging in some sabre-rattling over various attempts by the NDA to absorb Indian Muslims into the mainstream and simultaneously get on a bus to Lahore. For the first time then, the BJP was realising the compulsions of being in power and ruling a country as vast and as diverse as India and the BJP leader said: "Unfortunately, Thackeray has never been in government and he will never ever have to hold the reins at the Centre. So he does not realise we just cannot make second-class citizens out of our minorities and that we are so dependent on the oil-producing Gulf nations for our economy that we cannot go to war with Pakistan at the drop of a hat.''

So if Thackeray had no understanding of national compulsions, it is no wonder now that his Shiv Sainiks should believe that dropping a nuclear bomb on Pakistan is the answer to the beheading of an Indian jawan on the Line of Control.

While I disagree with the method, I do understand the sentiment of the Sainiks of not allowing Pakistani hockey players in India. However, they must ask their ally, the BJP's Navjot Singh Sidhu, why he believes they will be a bridge between the nations and why Arun Jaitley, as part of the hockey league, had brought them to India in the first place.

But in the midst of all this shrill rhetoric, I have fallen in love with General Bikram Singh for showing both the government and the nation the way. Watching his press conference on Monday - wherein he showed more patience than I have known anyone else to display - I suddenly felt India was in safe hands. General Singh's comments have been pitch-perfect: measured, yet menacing; his comments were refined and shorn of rhetoric and hyperbole. Nevertheless, he left the Pakistan army in no doubt that it would be better not to test India's patience and was clear about the consequences of any further barbaric acts.

In General Singh's statements, I thought, there was also a message for the UPA. With a family in the army, I know our soldiers believe that, given
political will, they are fully capable of "bringing Pakistan to India" in 48 hours, obliterating that country from the world atlas.

While that might be too extreme a goal to be feasible, I wish our political leaders, who can accomplish more than an army thanks to its political limitations, take a few lessons from General Singh and uphold the Indian ethos as he has now done: polite yet tough, civilised but no holds barred, and leave Pakistan in no doubt the consequences of messing with India.