5 Takeaways from the India-Pakistan Military Standoff

An objective assessment of the recent India-Pakistan military standoff is urgent and necessary. In my opinion it produced the following five results :

1. The rash and impulsive IAF ‘strike’ on an empty hill top in Khyber-Pakhtoonwa province in Pakistan did not yield the achievement of any strategic or tactical objectives. Nor is there any credible visual evidence as yet that it was able to destroy any ‘terror’ infrastructure, anywhere. The claims of having ‘avenged’ (for whatever that is worth) the terror attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama, Kashmir, ring hollow. The action, and its aftermath, exposes not the strength, but the weakness, of the level of preparedness of the Indian military establishment. Three Indian aircraft (two MIG 21 planes and a Mi-17-V5 chopper) are down, resulting in seven casualties (six airmen, one civilian), as opposed to one Pakistani F-16 down (as claimed by Indian sources). The cost of two Mig 21 is 6.53 billion Indian Rupees. The cost of one Mi-17-V5 helicopter is 1.45 billion Indian Rupees. That is a net hole of 7.98 billion Indian Rupees in the Indian exchequer. The action has resulted in increased instability at the Line of Control. For those who think these things matter, India is less, not more secure, as a result of the events of the last few days. The action has resulted in the increased vulnerability and suffering of ordinary people in both Indian and Pakistani Occupied Kashmir to immense suffering. Already, three civilian lives in Indian held Jammu and Kashmir and four civilian lives in Pakistani held Jammu and Kashmir have been lost in cross border shelling. Those are seven lives too many. A total of fourteen people, six airmen and eight civilians, are now dead. Narendra Modi’s actions are responsible for these fourteen un-necessary and tragic deaths.

2. In the battlefield of perceptions, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister S. M. Qureshi were successfully able to present themselves as responsible, caring and compassionate men who seemed in control of the situation they were handling. The Indian Prime Minister Modi’s actions and words (or lack of them) exposed him to the world as callous, cynical and frivolous in his handling of a situation that had extremely serious implications. Modi did not find it possible, in these days, to take his country into confidence, did not attend ‘all party meetings’, did not take questions and did not say a word, until too late, about the Indian pilot who went down and was held captive in Pakistan. Imran Khan did all of the above. The Indian foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj mouthed platitudes, the Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, appeared to be ‘missing in action’, the representatives of the three Indian armed forces were made to look ridiculous in front of the whole world in a shabby and amateurishly handled press conference, and much of the Indian media came across as a bunch of demented, war-mongering loudmouths.

3. In the course of one swift move, Pakistan has transformed the world’s optics of it from being a ‘rogue state’ and ‘terror sponsor’ into coming across as a responsible and responsive entity that cares about geo-political stability and peace. The decision to return the captive Indian pilot swiftly (they could easily have held him for a few more days, even under the regulations of the Geneva Convention) despite being at a military advantage, and without preconditions, made Pakistan appear gracious. India’s response to this move appears sullen. India now comes across, once again, as the ‘neighbourhood bully’.

4. The net result of the events of the past few days, as a result of Narendra Modi being at the helm in India, can be tersely summarized as – ‘Pakistan-1: India-0’. Only Narendra Modi and his advisors can have the crassness to imagine that they can milk this situation to possible electoral and/or political advantage.

5. The only thing that was reassuring was the extent of public antipathy towards war, both in india and in Pakistan, despite the intense war-hysteria in the media. I hope that this sentiment strengthens and articulates itself with power, beauty and hope.

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Shuddhabrata Sengupta is an artist with Raqs Media Collective

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