Monday, December 17, 2018

Pulwama - the extremely high cost of stupidity

Tragically - in the India I grew up in - moral compromises in the context of COIN were inevitable. Soldiers who had taken an oath to defend the country and it's people were asked to perform dirty, disgusting work of murdering unarmed civilians and children in the hope of stamping out the contagion of ultra-violent extremism in many parts of the country. I still don't know if it really worked.

Too often I swallowed my guilt for supporting ideas of COIN that didn't make sense in the broader sense of what India was - a secular, democratic order with a government that at least in theory was working for the benefit of its people.  Too long did I turn a deaf ear to the sufferings of the Kashmiris, the various people of the North East and to the "Naxals" of East India. Too far I went in searching for an evil Pakistani hand behind all anti-state violence in India.

How could I not support extreme measures? How could I not back the Army and the MHA? Everyone was aligned - the Jihadis were blowing up bridges on a weekly basis, they were murdering IC operatives in broad daylight, the Pandits had been ethnically cleansed and police officer families targeted? and those Assamese separatists - Lord if the people found out the things they had done. And these Naxals - they were hindering India from exploiting vital domestic mineral reserves that could provide a massive buffer against import of Uranium and other energetic materials.

But that time went away. The deal made with Musharraf in 2002 has held (full disclosure I was opposed to the deal - I wanted to see the PA vacate the Neelum Valley but you get what you can and frankly they got what they asked for!).  Barring the occasional eruption at the LOC - the situation in Kashmir has improved significantly.

Then in 2014 came the great election of the Most Exalted One with the 56 Million Foot Chest. And all the stupid ideas that had been buried along with thousands of Kashmiris in mass graves - resurfaced. "Take back POK", "Akhand Bharat", "End Art 370" etc... etc...

People like me who were carefully pushing ideas to remove all knowable arms caches in the valley were thrown completely off balance. The core idea during Sri. Manmohan Singh's time - to improve the logistical position in the region to keep up with Chinese posture changes to the East while assuring Kashmiris that no harm to their ethnic uniqueness was intended went out the window. Gone was the picture of building hydel resources in the region so as to provide a generation ballast to the failing northern portion of PGCILs operations. The Bhakt Brigade scrawled "Kill all Kashmiris" and "Mere Purkhon ki Zameen" (My Ancestral Lands) on everything. Every last word was poisoned!

A decade of work was basically burned to the ground. People were appointed in positions of power and these people brought out the worst in everyone. Kashmiris groaned at the prospect of another three decades of war and the *real* Nat Sec crowd in Delhi threw up their hands in despair. And the Army defaulted to the last set of ideas it knows worked in the context of the situation.

Violence started afresh. The Pakistanis feeling already threatened by the overly aggressive posturing of the Most Brilliant NSA since God - felt it was time to do their due diligence in Kashmir. After all if He who is Most Holier than Allah Himself, was going around giving public lectures on donations to anti-Pakistan groups - then surely they could be expected to counter that forcefully? Why would they react positively to the idea of India doing hydel power production in the region when they facing declining water flow in Mangla and Tarbela? They reacted as any rational person would have expected.

So where are we now you ask?

Well delicately put - the situation is completely fucked. Everything has been thrown under the bus for a grand plan of securing Bhakt votes in some imaginary election.

I don't know if it can unfucked - I hope it can - but the Army is left with no recourse to go back to old models of using the heaviest hand possible. And let me spell that out in plain text for you - that means going way beyond the genteel "No Dadhiwalla Left Alive" stance, this means reacting to situations like they *are* Convoy Challenges. This kind of thing has only existed in the past in a specific context, now with flaccid enforcement of codes of conduct (see that Maj. Gogoi situation) and a complete disregard for framing meaningful ROEs - one is heading down a hell hole incredibly fast. 

Why is the Army going along with this? - because what else will they do? They have to keep their troops alive and end this on terms they feel comfortable with. Everyone in business knows that you can't use the Army to end the situation. The more you use the Army - the more it will inflame the situation. But they have orders and they will carry them out - however vaguely those orders are worded or regardless of what the cost in personal moral and psychological terms is. It is their job to follow order and die if needed. Most of them will privately acknowledge that this kind of thing will bring with it a moral corrosion and breakdown of discipline. (Incidents like that business in Leh with the Arty unit will become more commonplace - but hey its not like anyone in South Block gives a shit!)

The people who give the orders are the problem. The culture of permissiveness on misapplied force is where the rubber is hitting the road. That culture needs to go.

Can that be done with a group of people like this at the helm? Is democracy possible with people who perpetually worship dictatorial behavior and reject facts about being robbed blind? I don't think so - but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

I am tired. I am sick of watching innocents killed pointlessly in the name of Nat Sec. I can't make up stupid excuses for why that happened. I am disgusted after decades of watching some of most talented, smart and physically fit people India has to offer be turned into common murderers and hitmen. Call me names if you life - but I am fucking done with this shit.

But it is your India - you decide what you want to do with it. I cannot and will not defend the misuse of resources like this.


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