PM Modi address to nation on Pathankot

Narendra Modi, PM
PM Narendra Modi

This is the draft outline of a speech which, in our opinion, PM Narendra Modi should give to the nation regarding the Pathankot attack. Of course, he should wait for the mopping up operation to conclude. He should also get some preliminary conclusions from the NSA team.

 

The speech has to be brief, to the point, poignant and without any politics or partisanship involved. It should come straight from the heart. Perhaps Modi is the only leader in this country capable of doing this.

The speech (draft)

Dear citizens

You are aware of the recent terror strike in Pathankot. Let me offer my sincere condolences to the families of brave Indians who laid down their lives to protect the nation and its assets. I join you in saluting their bravery. We lost x of our brave sons who died so that you, your children and our future are more secure.

As a nation, will should always remember their sacrifice. But as a great nation, we should always look forward too. In this connection, two vital questions have arisen that needs serious thought.

One is what should be our policy regarding talks with Pakistan.

We fully understand the anguish and frustration of many Indians who feel there is no point talking to Pakistan, which is a state sponsor of terror. Even we have made such demands in the past. My recent efforts in the direction of peace, including the Lahore visit, were with the hope that Pakistan has turned a corner, especially after facing several jihadi terrorist attacks in its own cities. You remember the Peshawar school attack that killed many children among others. We felt there is serious rethink underway in Pakistan, at least in some sections of its ruling establishment, that its terror policies are not only failing, they are becoming counterproductive. We also strongly believe that jihadi terrorism is our enemy, not the state of Pakistan or its citizens. Peace with Pakistan is our ultimate goal, continued hostility not in our interest.

Of course, while we look to the future with hope, we also take into account actual events and feedback from our intelligence. After the Pathankot attack, we are not going to call off talks with Pakistan. Instead we are going to bring this up in the next round of discussions with the civilian government of Pakistan as the first and only major topic, and see what their reaction is.

If we see some hope that they are with us in this battle, as they claim to be, that is good for all of us. We can work together to combat this evil, even as we discuss over problems and issues and find mutually acceptable solutions.

But if we find they simply use talks as a facade, they do not seek peace but share the jihadist goal of dominance over India, we will call off the talks and wait for better times. You have my assurance.

Second important question is, is there anything we could have done better? Are there lessons to be learnt?

There have been lots of criticism in the media and from our friends in the opposition over so-called intelligence failure, operational mismanagement, delay in concluding the operation etc. I am convinced our jawans as well as civilian and military leadership did their very best. They knew about this attack through our intelligence network and they deliberately decided to let the terrorists come to the airbase instead of chasing them all over the civilian areas of Pathankot. This would have been even worse.

This does not mean that everything is perfect or that things cannot be done better. We have to continuously improve our defenses and offensive capabilities to deal with jihadi terror. Better training, better coordination among various state and central agencies, clearer communication to media as well as the public are some of the things that come to my mind right now. But we have to let experts look at this issue in a proper way.

We are thankful to those who offer us meaningful criticism and suggestions, whatever be their political background or motive.

Towards this end, we have to be ready to accept criticism and seek the truth. NSA Doval has been tasked with identifying specific weaknesses and areas of improvements on an urgent basis. I will share with you his findings as soon as possible and also tell you about some of the steps we are taking to improve in future.

 

Jai Hind!

 

Peace after Pathankot

It had to happen. It was a question of when and never if. The biggest question, of course, is, “What next?”.  Let’s us look at that question

What next?

The options are quite simple to list out even if they are quite complicated to choose from. After all, logically there can be only these

  1. Carry on with talks as if nothing happened
  2. Carry on with talks but restrict topic to incident and terror in general.
  3. Call off talks

Did I miss any? Of course, any of the above options can be pursued with or without mounting a retaliatory strike, either covertly or overtly or both. That is an entirely different matter altogether.

Good Pakistan’s response is the key

What is the underlying logic behind the resumption of talks in the first place? It goes along following lines: “Not all Pakis are terrorists, there is a strong constituency for peace and coexistence, if not brotherhood, that should be engaged“. Then there are more altruistic drivers such as “the civilian regime has to be strengthened to weaken military’s hold on the country” etc.

The hope here is that over time, the peace lobby will gain strength, the anti-peace ones (aka mullah/military cabal) weaken and we all happily live ever after.

If this indeed was the logic it makes absolutely no sense to call off talks after one incident, however, major.

But the key would be the response of the “good Pakistan” to this incident. If the good boys pretend as if it is not their problem or present a long list of demands to even consider some action on the terror front, then calling off talks would be logical.

That looks like Option (2) doesn’t it? Yes. Initially at least, talks have to be around the incident itself in order to gauge good Pakistan’s response. If some sort of assistance is offered, and followed through, it makes eminent sense to upgrade talks to Option (1). Such assistance or reassurance could range from covert action against some of the JeM players (overt may be too damaging to Pakistan’s own internal stability even if accepted), to even oral assurances from military to rein them in, if this has not been offered as yet.

If the response is that “look, we are not in control of these loonies, what can we do?“, India has to present a list of things they CAN do, to offset. For example, handing over Dawood could be one. Transit concessions, MFN etc., could be others. They can even be asked to warn us in advance and share intelligence, instead of simply opening a pack of popcorn to watch the show.

In other words, there has to be some quid pro quo. It cannot be that Pakistan insists on the entire Kashmir issue (and all else) to be solved to its satisfaction, simply to move an inch on any other front.  We cannot be taken for a two year fool’s ride, like Afghanistan’s Ashraf Ghani, bending over backwards and yet getting nothing in return.

Covert or overt retaliation

No government can take this option off the table. Question is what will be the trigger level of provocation for each set of response. It also is a question on capabilities. Do we have the means to inflict damage to “bad Pakistan” without hitting the good boys? As Mohammed Taqi points out in his interesting column, (The Wire) Pakistani generals have chosen a calibrated provocation. It requires a nuanced response.

Regardless of what we do or don’t do, silly macho comments by responsible members of government and the ruling party should cease. That serves no purpose and in fact ends up increasing pressure on PM Modi. There are no ‘training camps’ to raid. The entire country is one.

Here the best option appears to be to work with alone as well as with Afghan, Iranian and other intelligence in the short term to inflict some sort of pain. In the medium term, capacity building for stronger action should be pursued.  This has been seriously damaged by IK Gujral and the UPA regimes.

Given the deep distrust of the whiskey sipping Generals and the Pakistani establishment among the purer green cadre, it should be easy to find factions or groups more than happy to take a kufr’s aid to bring more purity to Pakistan, the land of pure. Balochi groups may be even more happy to help out, given their desperation for outside help in fighting an asymmetric war with the brutal Pakistani state.

But any such action has to be proportionate and carefully targeted to avoid needless escalation. The sole objective should be to send a message.

Prognosis

Chances are, India’s experience will be no different from Afghanistan’s. In other words, even as we keep talking, Pakistan would continue to mount covert attacks and pretend that they don’t control the show as much as they are thought to.

That’s when a serious call will have to be made on the entire matter. Unpalatable options may have to be given fresh look.

But until then, talks should go on. At least we can turn around to the international community and say, “look, we tried”.