First let us clear some basic doubts. The term “surgical strike” is not yet another archaic, 18th century English word that Indians and only Indians use (“Eve teasing”, “Textbook launch” etc). A quick search of UK Ministry of Defense web page turns up a few instances. But the super duper trigger happy macho US armed forces, for all their prowess, have unfortunately not carried out even one such strike. Their website returns blank if you search for “surgical strikes”. This should tell our Govt PR men something. Better use terms Americans (and English media dominated by them and their lingo) understand.
Having discussed the most important aspect of the strike, let us turn our attention to less important ones. A few salient facts stand out.
- This tight slap comes with free massage service too. Modi government is not really calling this an attack on Pakistan or even Pakistani Army. The specific reference to telecon with Paki DGMO in the presser (plus the confirmation that nothing else was planned) was designed to reassure international community as well as perhaps Pakistan itself – it is up to you to treat an attack on jihadi terrorists as an attack on your state.
- This gives Pakistan too a chance to deny everything and pretend nothing happened. But then like alibis (“I was never there”) in murder cases, that also preculdes them from using other defenses (“He hit me first, it was self defense, etc etc”)
- It may even offer Modi a nice chance to get back into the talks mode and de-escalate. The jingos have been taken care of. This is why repeated noises by likes of Praveen Swami that more or less imply strikes never took place look not only silly and foolish but also counterproductive.
- It sets a new bar no doubt. But alarmist opinions (like that of S Varadarajan at The Wire) that this will only force Modi to take even more violent action in future are silly. Because India was clever enough to wait for time and place as well as choose the strength and direction of the blow. Not only that PM Modi even addressed Pakistani citizens directly from Kerala, telling them clearly they are not his enemies. All this means, should another terror attack happen, public opinion will give Modi the time and space as well as let him choose the weapon to retaliate and not demand instant mob justice. In that sense, this “surgical strike” may have done more good than harm.
- No one think this will put a stop to Pakistani terror tactics as R. Jagannathan points out succintly in his brilliant article. But what was earlier a free ticket to kill kufr Indians is now a priced product with the usual “prices are subject to change without notice” condition in fine print. This may not stop a jihadi fanatic ready to die for “Islam” but it will give their backers and handlers (who are not that keen on dying, rather look forward to retiring in peace with their fine Scotch, kebabs and Chinese LED TV screens) in the Pakistani deep state something to chew on.
- Combine that with the muscular stand on Balochistan and the strident opposition to CPEC, it will also send a signal to China. Happy hours are over, peak period pricing applies. Given their commercial acumen, it is a matter of time before they pull out their calculators and do the maths. Given the size of the reward booming Indian economy offers to demand starved Chinese manufacturers with excess capacity, we have much better chances of seeing a gradual change in behaviour than aggressive counter measures. China will even lean on Pakistan to keep a lid on their boys at least until its own economy steps back from the precipice.
- There has always been a lot of “Oh God! They have nukes” arguments are slowly loosing their shine. Interestingly all our leftist geniuses that argue that Pakistan is perfectly entitled to blackmail and we should simply roll over and play dead do not seem to suggest a similar course against China! After all the dynamics are almost exactly the same. Although a few of their kids have been sent overseas to safety, as we mentioned earlier, the Pakistani elite loves life, and does not want to be vaporised in their homes. This is obviously not to recommend a reckless course, but to be ready to raise costs and not yield to blackmail without worrying all the time about a nuclear wipeout.
- The world will understand India means business and will now work to restrain Pakistan. This completely reverses the earlier game where Pakistan was free to kill and maim and it was the Indians that were told to be “restrained”
Let us see how the situation develops and hope enough planning is being done to exploit the new momentum as well as take precautions.