Advertisement
Sunday, Dec 05, 2021
Outlook.com
Outlook.com
Opinion

Modi And His 'Strategic Restraint'

By choosing not to escalate a crisis, India is deliberately swallowing its anger because the cost-to-benefit analysis does not favour war

Modi And His 'Strategic Restraint'
| File - Jitender Gupta/Outlook
Modi And His 'Strategic Restraint'
outlookindia.com
2016-09-25T10:26:26+05:30

There are those who have believed for a long time that India has deliberately been soft on Pakistan when it comes to terrorism. That when an episode of violence is inflicted on India it should react in turn with violence. 

Even when there was demonstrable involvement by Pakistanis, as was admitted by Pakistan for the attacks in Mumbai, India did not retaliate. This, according to the group that I am writing about, was a mistake. Pakistani prosecution of its citizens was not enough, according to this thinking, and India could do more. 

This inaction was deliberate and it was cowardice and the option for revenge was available. The policy of not waging war when terrorist attacks happen in India is being called 'strategic restraint'. The doctrine says that by choosing not to escalate a crisis, India is deliberately swallowing its anger because the cost- to- benefit analysis does not favour war. This has been the path favoured by Atal Bihari Vajpayee when Jaish e Muhammad attacked Parliament in 2001 and by Manmohan Singh when Lashkar e Taiyyaba attacked Mumbai in 2008.

Prime minister Narendra Modi has long included himself in the group that advocated action. After the assault in Uri he appears to have either moved away from his earlier promises of retaliation, or he seems to be hesitant to act as he said he would. This could be for any number of reasons. It could be because he has learned things upon taking office that he did not know before. 

Whatever the reason, he has taken a hammering from his supporters, who believe they had been promised something that they have not got. It is unusual to go through the comments section on our news websites and see criticism of Modi, who is a beloved figure. These days on the question of Pakistan it is different and most people writing such comments feel he is not delivering. What should he do?

None of those commenting on the matter have the information that Modi has —  inputs from the armed forces, from the national security advisor, from the finance ministry, from the external affairs ministry on what the fallout of escalation will be abroad and from the home ministry and intelligence bureau on what the fallout will be within the country. Very few people will have access to the granular details of what options are available to India and what their costs, consequences and benefits are. 

While Modi considers all of this, he would do well to do one thing. And that is to ignore the media. It lacks, as I have said, the input available to him. But that does not stop us from offering him advice and direction and also abuse in case he doesn’t act according to our point of view. Many of us strut around pretending to be the guardians of India's national interest. The reality is that the media has no higher interest than ratings. Though we claim otherwise, this is the truth.

Much of the aggressive posturing of anchors comes from the belief that this is what their audience, and by extension the nation, wants. I am sure they mean well, but they give the same amount of coverage to a socialite murdering her daughter as they do debates about taking India to war. They should not take themselves too seriously and certainly the government should not. 

The second thing Modi would do well to avoid is getting on social media. He has been one of its champions and has over two crore twitter followers. He has used it brilliantly and he genuinely believes that social media has helped him overturn the bias against him that he feels exists, or existed, in traditional media. But here also he is encountering angry followers, posting links to his previous hard statements, goading him towards war. 

Modi went two or three days without tweeting after his initial reaction to the Uri attacks. He could stay away from it a little longer in times like these.

Ultimately, this will blow over, and it is unwise to consider something grave while receiving casual input from social media and media.

A few weeks ago, the organisation I work for was in the news, and accused of being 'anti-national'. I was abroad when this happened and missed the first couple of days when the channels were at their angriest. My father was worried for me and called me to express his concern. I said to him reality was different from what was happening inside the TV set. If he switched it off, it would go away. I'd tell Modi the same thing.


Aakar Patel is the executive director of Amnesty International India. The views expressed here are personal. 

Advertisement

Outlook Newsletters

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Read More from Outlook

Why I Rap: A Hip-Hop Artiste’s Journey From Bihar To Stardom

Why I Rap: A Hip-Hop Artiste’s Journey From Bihar To Stardom

Aamir Shaikh aka Shaikhspeare traces talks about the genre that uses music as a means to dissent.

Hyderpora Encounter: Arrest Of Khurram Parvez Brings Focus Back On Human Rights In Kashmir

Hyderpora Encounter: Arrest Of Khurram Parvez Brings Focus Back On Human Rights In Kashmir

Alleging abuse of anti-terror laws, the United Nations and international human rights bodies seek release of rights activist Khurram Parvez and inquiry into the Hyderpora encounter.

'I Remember Kumble's 10-for, Seen It Plenty Of Times': Patel

'I Remember Kumble's 10-for, Seen It Plenty Of Times': Patel

Ajaz Patel on Saturday became only the third bowler to take 10 wickets in a Test innings, joining Anil Kumble and Jim Laker in a select club.

Omicron Severity Is Anticipated To Be Low: Health Ministry

Omicron Severity Is Anticipated To Be Low: Health Ministry

Will the Omicron variant drive the Covid-19 third wave in India? The Union Health Ministry says the chances are very low.

Advertisement