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The Shadow of Our Silence

Major Gaurav Arya

Indian Army (Retd.)

 
 
 

As a nation, we choose silence. And it is in the shadow of our silence that treason spawns its many sons. Its primary weapons are intellectual elitism and social snobbery. We are told that to be a nationalist is to be cerebrally stunted, showing little understanding of how we are really meant to be, as citizens of the world. In this synthetically manufactured utopia, common sense is a supposed clue to lack of breeding. So we, the people, must close our eyes to the ugliness that manifests itself in so many forms each moment, and celebrate an idea that is never to be.

It does not rain in September, you say. Well, it should, they say. And they say it with a smug visage that only intellectual inbreeding can give you.

Disturbing images of students marching, chanting “azaadi” for Kashmir and Bastar are beamed live into our drawings rooms. Colorful party flags are carried and banners displayed, each political party careful to display the tri-color, perhaps consciously accepting even while shouting slogans for the disintegration of India, nothing has better brand recall than the Flag.

Our vision has become politically binary. A nationalist is a “bhakt” by default, whether he likes it or not. And, a person with an opinion on free speech & human rights is a traitor. As I said, we are politically binary. Zero or one.

Who is a traitor? A person who is an Indian and does not believe in the Constitution of India, and openly calls for the dismemberment of this great nation is a traitor. He who actively or passively aids and abets the enemy is a traitor. And he who motivates and encourages others to treason is also a traitor.

All citizens have a right to protest, and that right cannot be questioned. It is your duty as an Indian to question the government. Question everything that your mind can conceive, and your heart cannot accept. Let your conscience be your moral compass. But do not cross the Rubicon. When you call for the dismemberment of India, you are crossing the thin red line. People have protected this nation with their blood for centuries. Families have been shattered, sons and daughters slaughtered by an unforgiving enemy.

Over millennia, countless Indians have been martyred defending this idea of India. For people to willingly court martyrdom for an idea simply speaks for how worthy this idea is.

India is worth dying for. It’s also worth killing for, because what you love, you must be willing to defend with violence.

Is a person calling for human rights implementation in Kashmir and other places a traitor? Absolutely not. We must respect human rights in Kashmir and everywhere else. If there is rape, it must be punished. If a person in uniform commits it, it is doubly heinous. I believe that punishment for rape must be death.

But soldiers have human rights too. If you interfere in a counter terror operation and pelt stones, you are asking to be shot. If you pelt stones at security forces and then take it up a few notches by throwing Molotov cocktails and acid bottles, pellet guns are too good for you. You are begging for a 7.62 mm full metal jacket.

Why are we so tentative with the use of force? We have mobs in Srinagar attacking CRPF men and chasing them down the street, simply because the CRPF does not have orders to shoot in self-defense. Similar scenes have been witnessed in Bangalore. When a man in uniform is attacked, it is the prestige of the state that takes a hit. Often, berserk mobs need to be shown overwhelming and brute force. Mobs everywhere comprise of cowards. Put two down and the rest will go home. All that the mobs need to see is resolute will. Everything else falls into place.

We are seen as a soft state, a weak state. Pakistan does a Kargil and we do nothing. It then mounts a full-fledged terror attack in Mumbai and we do nothing. Uri. Pathankot. Nagrota. Nothing.

Pakistan breeds secession in Punjab and calls it Khalistan. Nothing. A 28-year-old insurgency in Kashmir, which has mutated into full-fledged terrorism, funded and abetted by Pakistan. Nothing.

An ex-Chief Minister of Kerala says proudly that he did not donate blood to the Indian Army during the 1962 war, making his loyalty to China obvious. Nothing. The Chief Minister of West Bengal does not allow the Indian Army to carry out an Impressment Exercise, a simple data collection of heavy vehicles on roads for possible use in times of war, but welcomes millions of refugees from Bangladesh because she needs the votes. Nothing.

We have become The Nothing State.

Today, I say this again – a nation does not live on its knees.

We are a proud and ancient civilization. For thousands of years, invaders have galloped into India, raping and pillaging, converting and changing. It is a testimony to the steel in our spine that we worship the same way we did five thousand years back. And most of us live without rancor.

But history also bears testimony to the harsh and unpalatable truth that the gates of the citadel have always been opened from inside. A dark comedy unfolds when we learn of the secular fabric of treason; for every Jai Chand, we have a Mir Jafar.

India faces danger from within, and it is a visible, clear and present danger that we have chosen to overlook. Sometimes it’s our belief that India is too huge for anyone to unsettle, and sometimes we simply choose to look the other way thinking nothing will change. Fatalism is the chink in our armour.

Our will must be resolute. Wooly ideas and fairy tales do not defend Nations. The foundations of Bharat are soaked in the blood of martyrs.

Who but the soldier understands peace? Who craves peace more than the soldier? We want peace, even with Pakistan. But we want peace with honor. We may live a few days without food and a few moments without air. But how can a nation exist without honor? It is this honor that the treasonous horde would deny us, always pushing for a sorry compromise.

It is now time to confront those who seek to dismember India, hiding behind freedom of speech. When students demand “azaadi” for Kashmir and mainstream political parties support their freedom to express treason, we must understand that the time has come.

The time has come to unshackle our voices and free our universities and colleges from the chains of intellectual terrorism. The time to hold back has passed. We are committed to battle.

We can no longer stand in the sidelines, and watch events unfold. The time has come to choose the flag under which we will fight. Choose wisely. This is a fight to the finish.

Twenty-three years back I chose my flag, with a promise to my God that I would fight under it or come back wrapped in it.

Whichever flag you choose, let the world know.

A Stone with My Name

Major Gaurav Arya

Indian Army (Retd.)

 
 
 
Some soldier with a funny bone at 102 Infantry Brigade (Base Camp) will tell you that Siachen means ‘Rose Garden’. Its true. Maybe its funny, in a self-deprecating sort of way. Most soldiers crack jokes, which only they can understand.
It’s been a violent year, both emotionally and physically. Never was the Indian Army attacked by those that they loved. Except for this year. We won the wars fought on the Line of Control and across. We lost those fought inside our country, because those who attacked us were our countrymen.
When I was in the army my Commanding Officer told me that we must never fear death. He told us that dying for the nation was a unique honor, which was accorded to a lucky few. He told us that when we went home wrapped in the tricolor, the nation would weep. And, he told us that they would remember our names forever. We would become immortal.
My CO was a simple soldier. He had fought wars and shed blood. For him, dishonorable conduct was unthinkable. He would often admonish us and say “This conduct in unbecoming of an officer of the Indian Army”. To him, life was simple. You defended your country and its people, and if you were martyred, there would a stone with your name at the Kumaon Regimental Center at Ranikhet. That was all that we aspired to. A stone with our name at Ranikhet.
When the situation seemed hopeless, he would simply say “Yeh Major Shaitan Singh aur Major Somnath Sharma ki Regiment hai”. These words were enough. 17 Kumaon would pick itself up, bleeding and bruised, and launch itself again into battle. It was always about “Izzat”. Honour of the nation, the regiment and our forefathers who had been martyred before us in countless wars and insurgencies.
Rezang La. Badgam. Walong. Bhaduria. Names, which ordinary Indians had never heard of, were temples around which our lives ceaselessly revolved. After all, what was life without honor?
2016 has been a different year. Movie actors say that the soldier signed up to die. Politicians want proof that we hit terror camps across the border. The expert, that Lutyens Delhi breed, so adapt at passing judgment wants to know how the army ‘allowed’ itself to be attacked at Uri, Nagrota and Pathankot. Opportunists, who never once so much as looked in the direction of a soldier, have shed crocodile tears over an unfortunate suicide. Bureaucrats have an opinion on the appointment of the army Chief. This year, the Indian Army has been constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons, and none of it for its own doing.
I want the experts, politicians, bureaucrats, TV anchors and sundry actors to know that what they say in public damages morale of the soldier. It denudes and degrades the soldier’s will to fight. It shatters his self-esteem. It dishonors him. A soldier without honor is not a soldier. It is a dead body.
I am an unknown soldier. I have fought for over a hundred years, killing and dying. In unmarked graves across Europe and in the fetid and humid jungles of Burma, you will find my memories. In desolate, wind swept mountain passes and in the bone-bleaching furnace of the Thar, you will discover that I could not be defeated. Across the salty seas and terror-infested landscapes, I was mostly the hunter and sometimes the smell of the dead body on the third day.
Why do I do what I do? I don’t know how to explain. In this mad world of smartphones and Twitter, undefined relationships and loneliness, I inhabit a world that smells of cordite and warm blood. It’s a different world. It’s a world in which people will die because you ask them to, sometimes for the flag, sometimes for the anthem, and often for the fallen heroes of battles fought eons ago.
If you honor me, I will be grateful. If you don’t, I will still fight. If you give me nothing, I will fight with my bare hands. Major Shaitan Singh lives.
That is all that I aspire to; a stone with my name at Ranikhet.
 

US-Taliban agreement portends several challenges for India

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Kanwal Sibal

IFS (Retd.) & Advisory Council

 
 
 

Finally, the United States has reached an agreement with the Taliban. The Americans were negotiating with a weak hand, having already acknowledged, not only by Trump but by Obama also, that a military solution to the Afghanistan conflict was not possible, and repeatedly announced that the US intended to end its costly 18-year war in Afghanistan and bring the US troops back home. During his election campaign, Trump had made this promise and is under pressure to deliver on it before the presidential election in November this year.
On Afghanistan, Trump has blown hot and cold, hitting the country with the “mother-of-all-bombs”, calling off the talks and then resuming them, and even now threatening to punish the Taliban as never before if it violates the just signed peace agreement. The reality is that it is all bluster. The US is not going to recommit itself to Afghanistan no matter what happens; its allies, already upset with his hectoring and unilateral decisions, will not join hands with him in any renewed military action there.
Even if it was known for sometime that the US was looking for a way out of the Afghan quagmire and would make concessions, the peace agreement it has struck with the Taliban could have been more even-handed and less humiliating for the American side. While claiming that the peace process in Afghanistan should be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led, the US has entered into a separate deal with the Taliban, bypassing the legitimate government in Kabul, and giving Taliban a status equal to the latter. The US has signed an agreement with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which implicitly recognises an eventual takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. The Taliban was adamant on this and the US yielded. The caveat in the agreement is that the US has not recognised the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as a state. Under the agreement the US will reduce the number of its troops to 8,600 in 135 days, with coalition troops also drawn down proportionately. All troops will be out in 14 months, including “non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting services personnel.” This meets the Taliban demand that all US troops must leave, which means no bases, nor residual forces to provide air support or surveillance.
The Taliban, according to the agreement, “will not allow any of its members, other individual or groups, including Al Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies”. This means that the Taliban’s hands in the region in which we are, have not been fully restrained, as only the US and its allies are out of bounds. This leaves India out of the scope of Taliban’s threat to Indian interests. There is no mention of the Islamic State or groups like LeT and JeM which are UN designated terrorist organisations, which leaves India exposed. If fighting terrorism is a shared responsibility of the international community, as is stated in several statements in international forums, why the Taliban has not been asked to eschew complicity with any violence outside Afghanistan is unfortunate. India and the US have strengthened their counter-terrorism cooperation. Such cooperation has relevance and meaning essentially in the Pakistan-Afghanistan context, which is why omitting any reference to Taliban’s regional responsibility to not permit violence emanating from its soil is a serious omission.
US sanctions on Taliban leaders are required to be removed in three months (by May 29). Will these sanctions be removed against the Haqqani group too? US policy towards the Taliban has been, in any case, rather dubious in terms of its war on terrorism. The Taliban has never been declared a terrorist organisation by the US despite its involvement in the killing of thousands of American soldiers in Afghanistan. The Taliban chiefs have been assassinated and other Taliban leaders too have been eliminated through aerial action, yet the Taliban has not been declared a terrorist organisation. The strategy obviously has been to keep the doors open for eventual negotiations with the Taliban. This contrasts with the draconian sanctions the US has imposed on organisations, even belonging to the state, in sovereign countries.

Though the US was looking for a way out of the Afghan quagmire, the peace agreement it has struck with the Taliban could have been less humiliating for the Americans

The joint declaration between the US and the Afghanistan government of February 29, 2020, says that the US will facilitate “discussion with the Taliban representatives on confidence-building measures, to include determining the feasibility of releasing significant numbers of prisoners on both sides”, whereas the US-Taliban agreement lays down that 5,000 Taliban prisoners and upto 1,000 prisoners “from the other side” by the Taliban will be released by March 10, which is when the Oslo-based intra-Afghan talks begin. Already, differences have erupted on this issue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, with the former declaring that no prisoner release will take place before these talks begin, and the Taliban in return announcing that as per their agreement with the US they will not attack foreign forces but that their “operations will continue against the Kabul administration forces”. For them the short period of reduction of violence that was a pre-condition for the US-Taliban agreement has ended and that henceforth their operations will continue as normal. The cease-fire issue has been left undetermined in the US-Taliban agreement, even though it is critically important for bringing peace to Afghanistan and ending violence, when it says that “A permanent and comprehensive ceasefire will be an item on the agenda of the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations. The participants of intra-Afghan negotiations will discuss the date and modalities of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, including joint implementation mechanisms, which will be announced along with the completion and agreement over the future political roadmap of Afghanistan”.
The future of Afghanistan is most uncertain, which is problematic for India. Pakistan, which has assisted in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, has obtained a political role in Afghanistan through the Taliban which it will use to control developments there, including with regard to India’s presence and future role. So far, the US provided the political and security cover for India to maintain close ties with the Afghan government and its people. With a new dispensation in Kabul, India’s position will be impaired even if India has earned a lot of goodwill amongst the Afghan people, including the Pashtuns.
The Taliban leadership is unabashedly Islamic. Even now its statements on the rights of women and freedoms enjoyed by the Afghan people since the ouster of the previous Taliban government make it clear that these rights and freedoms have to be in accordance with the tenets of Islam. For India the inclusion of a radical Islamic force in the government in Kabul coupled with an increasingly radicalised Pakistan will aggravate the country’s security situation.
The Taliban leaders are already bragging about the ouster of the Russians first and now the Americans from Afghanistan. For them the objective of ousting the Kabul government, bereft of US support, from power would seem easily achievable in due course. How much resistance will the Afghan security forces be able to present is a doubtful proposition despite the clause in the US-Afghan government joint declaration that “The United States re-affirms its commitment to seek funds on a yearly basis that support the training, equipping, advising and sustaining of Afghan security forces, so that Afghanistan can independently secure and defend itself against internal and external threats.” Once the US withdraws, Afghanistan will lose its strategic value for America and the commitment to maintain financial support for the Afghan government, especially if intra-Afghan talks succeed and the Taliban are in the government, will make little sense. The Taliban have made some commitments to give political cover to allow the US to withdraw “honourably”, but they know well that if they are violated, neither the US nor the Afghan government will have the option to hold them accountable. The intra-Afghan talks are between a winning side and a losing one, and the Kabul government already disunited, will not be able to negotiate from any position of self-confidence and strength.
Other uncertainties abound, be it the morale and cohesion of the Afghan national security forces, their ability to withstand the Taliban, the manoevures of the entrenched warlords, the survival of the existing constitution, the process of integration of the Taliban fighters with the Afghan army as part of a search for a negotiated solution at Oslo, the source of guarantees for peace in Afghanistan. The US-Afghanistan joint declaration says that “The United States will request the recognition and endorsement of the UN Security Council for this agreement and related arrangements”. This will mean bringing Russia and China on board on all the details of the US-Taliban agreement, and that may require engaging them seriously.
India has been right in not engaging with the Taliban though some voices in the foreign policy establishment have advocated contact. India was and is under compulsion to legitimise the takeover of Afghanistan by a radical Islamic force and indirectly aid Pakistan’s geopolitical ambitions. Because of endemic Pakistani hostility, the terrorist threat to us by jihadi forces and our religious diversity our situation is different from other countries that neighbour Afghanistan are involved in the conflict there. In November 2017, we sent two senior retired ambassadors as unofficial representatives to Moscow for Russia-initiated talks on Afghanistan in which the Taliban participated. Our ambassador in Qatar was present when the US-Taliban agreement was signed at Doha. Because the Afghan government itself supports the Afghanistan reconciliation process and the Ghani government has made overtures in the past to the Taliban, not to mention former president Karzai’s strong support for talks with the Taliban, these diplomatic gestures by India were the minimum. It was the right move to send our Foreign Secretary to Kabul as the US-Taliban agreement was signed to mark our support to the Afghan government and to make an assessment of how they see developments ahead. The Foreign Secretary rightly reiterated India’s consistent support for an “independent, sovereign, democratic, pluralistic, and inclusive Afghanistan,” and for an “enduring and inclusive” peace and reconciliation that is “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled”. He also referred to an “end to externally sponsored terrorism.” To underline our commitment to the Afghan government and people, agreements for road projects in Bamiyan and Mazar-e-Sharif provinces were signed.

Why Donald Trump delivered a masterful address at Motera

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Kanwal Sibal

IFS (Retd.) & Advisory Council
 
 
 
US President Donald Trump’s visit has got off to a better start than one could have expected. His Sabarmati Ashram visit along with his wife with hands at Mahatma Gandhi’s spinning wheel sent a subtle message, given Gandhiji’s simplicity and Trump’s ostentation, Gandhiji’s abhorrence of violence contrasted with a President who boasts of having spent $2.5 trillion on rebuilding the US military.
The visit was image-burnishing for the moment as it made him look less vain.
Struck the right note
Trump’s speech at the Motera stadium surpassed expectations in many ways. Speeches on such occasions are audience-oriented, but constructing the right message and giving it substance beyond the usual pleasant rhetoric requires savviness.
His speech struck all the right notes about Modi’s leadership and India’s achievements under him. He was lavish in referring to him as “an exceptional leader”, a “champion of India”, a “great Prime Minister”, and a “tremendously successful leader”.
He noted his electoral victory at the largest election anywhere (at least in this respect Trump conceded Modi is ahead of him).
Even allowing for Trump’s penchant for inflated vocabulary, this kind of unstinted praise on Indian soil before a massive audience, relayed nationwide on TV and other media sends a powerful message to those in India, the US and elsewhere in the West who have bought the narrative of Modi as dividerin-chief, anti-Muslim and a Hindu chauvinist presiding over an intolerant India.
On the eve of Trump’s visit, a US spokesperson let it be known that Trump will in public and private raise the issue of religious freedom and India will be encouraged to uphold its demo cratic traditions and institutions.
None of this was hinted at in Trump’s speech, but the visit is not over. One hopes that at Delhi during the joint press meeting or a separate press briefing by Trump to the US press, or in some factsheet issued by the US embassy, this kind of American concern is not mentioned or listed.
Otherwise it would give the Opposition the stick they want to beat the Modi government with and will cast an unwanted shadow on the remarkably positive results of the visit so far.
Trump was visibly overwhelmed by the rousing welcome he got. He will not get a welcome on such a scale anywhere else. Trump is popular in India, but beyond that, aspirational India responds positively to America.
The repeated hugs between the two leaders, with no reticence on Trump’s side, shows that the level of comfort at the personal level between them is now strong, though how far this will get translated into hard ball negotiations on many issues is a matter of speculation. It is interesting that Trump twice mentioned how “tough” Modi is. If Modi can be tough, so can Trump.
All praise for the PM
Trump acknowledged in glowing terms India’s astounding progress, calling it a miracle of democracy, referring to Indians as “strong and noble people”, a “hope for all humanity”.
He validated Modi’s achievements in providing electricity to all villages, the 320 million Internet connections, cooking gas connections, huge success in sanitation, poverty eradication, highway construction, etc.
In a veiled reference to China, he noted this has been achieved democratically and peacefully as a free country, with respect for dignity of every person, trust in its cit izenry, and without coercion, intimidation or aggression.
His well-crafted speech made appealing references to India’s culture and civilisation, citing Vivekanand, Bollywood’s creativity, Indian cricket icons, Sardar Patel’s monumental statue, the meaning of Diwali, Holi, the many religions living peacefully side by side, rule of law, and so on.
He paid a handsome tribute to the four million people of Indian origin in America.

Former Indian Official: Explaining India’s Citizenship Amendment Act

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Kanwal Sibal

IFS (Retd.) & Advisory Council
 
 
 
India has amended its Citizenship Act of 1955 in December 2019 to allow persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Christian faiths who have illegally migrated into India over the years from three neighbouring Islamic countries, namely, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, to acquire Indian citizenship on a relatively fast track basis. The exclusion of Muslims from the amendment has been criticized by India’s political opposition, sections of the civil society, leftist student groups and others for being unconstitutional, diluting India’s secularism and eroding India’s democracy.
The BJP won a huge majority in India’s general election in May last year, consolidating further its impressive victory in the 2014 elections. Amending the Citizenship Act of 1955 has been on the party’s agenda all along. In its previous tenure the BJP government had moved the amendment but it could not be passed because the party did not have a majority in the Upper House of India’s parliament, and so the legislation had to be shelved. This time also the party lacked a majority in the Upper House but was able to get the legislation through with the support of a section of the opposition. In other words, the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed after an intensive debate in both houses of parliament when all the issues raised by the opposition, including the perceived anti-secular nature of the amendment, were answered by the government.
The legislation was passed through an open, transparent and fully democratic process. The constitutionality of the legislation has, nonetheless, been questioned by opponents and the matter will be adjudicated by the Supreme Court of India. This is in consonance with the robust functioning of India’s democracy.
The CAA was necessitated because Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and Christian minorities who have entered India over decades and settled down in the country could not acquire Indian citizenship under the pre-amended citizenship law. They were, thus, deprived of many benefits of Indian citizenship and had to live precarious lives.
These minorities entered India for many reasons — persecution, discrimination, physical insecurity, threat of forcible conversion, and so on. In 1947 minorities in Pakistan, mostly Hindus and Sikhs, constituted about 23% of the population; today they constitute about 5%, with Hindus at about 1.65%. In 1971, at the time of Bangladesh’s creation, Hindus constituted 19% of the population, whereas in 2016 they constituted only 5%.

Now, these non-Muslim minorities, primarily Hindus and Sikhs, could only migrate to India and nowhere else, given that the historical home of Hindus and Sikhs is India. No Muslim country would either accept them or give them citizenship. But then, amongst those who have entered India illegally over the decades have been Muslims from Bangladesh. They did so not because of religious persecution discrimination, physical insecurity or threat of conversion. They came for better economic opportunities, encouraged also by Bangladesh regimes of the past for political reasons. Their case is different, as they can return to their country of origin, after, of course, identification as illegal migrants. The Indian government estimates that there are about 20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants in India, though the exact number can only be determined after a citizenship roll is established.
India is probably unique amongst major powers not having a system that legally identifies its citizens. It does not have a citizenship register; the system of national identity cards does not exist. This is an anomaly for a country that has a long open border (1758 kilometers) with one of its neighbors (Nepal), a longer porous border (4096 kilometers) with another (Bangladesh), and several thousand kilometers of contested or un-demarcated borders with two others (China and Pakistan- 4056 kilometers and 3323 kilometers, respectively).

The opposition elements in India believe that they have got an issue to put the Prime Minister Modi-led BJP government on the defensive, and hence the resolutions passed by opposition-ruled Indian states not to implement the CAA. Unable to have their way in parliament and looking for an issue around which those opposed to the BJP government can coalesce, the opposition is over-dramatizing issues and indulging in unrestrained fear-mongering.
Outside observers need to better understand the dynamics of internal politics in a raucous democracy like India. However, because the issues of refugees, migration, targeting of minorities anywhere, rise of nationalism have international resonance, western liberal circles, political and in the media, which have anti-Indian lobbies embedded in them traditionally, have picked up the CAA and NRC controversy in India and have begun a malicious campaign against the government, without trying to understand the issues dispassionately. In the process they are showing disrespect for Indian democracy. Worse, they are openly interfering in India’s domestic politics on the side of the opposition.
These circles should learn to respect the sovereignty of other countries and curb their tendency to pronounce on internal developments in them. They condemn interference in their internal politics by others and even punish them for this, but openly interfere in the internal politics of other countries. They should not believe that they have a responsibility to shape them or that they have a better idea of how other countries should be governed, more than their elected leaders. They forget that Prime Minister Modi was elected as India’s leader through the largest ever democratic exercise in human history, with more than 550 million voting in an electorate of 830 million.

India has tackled coronavirus well

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Kanwal Sibal

IFS (Retd.) & Advisory Council
 
 
 
India has performed well so far in tackling the Wuhan virus, with only 19,343 cases and 640 deaths. This is no mean feat given the country’s size, population density, limited means, inadequate health facilities and poverty levels. India has had to fight the virus as a democracy, with unfettered internal debate on steps needed, diverse expert opinions aired incessantly on the media, fake news, opposition circles bent on exposing the perceived deficiencies of government actions etc. Our federal system, with health a state subject, creates its own management hurdles. Additionally, to discredit the government in some way, entrenched anti-Modi lobbies in India, in complicity with the foreign media, have tried to draw the focus away from the evident success of the government in containing the crisis for the time being by highlighting areas where government action may not have measured up to the challenge.
Ulterior motives
For this, the issue of migrant workers has received disproportionate attention. Their situation is a legitimate cause of anguish, but to ascribe it to an unfeeling or ignorant government is to play politics. Faced with an unprecedented crisis for which no standard operating procedures exist, failure to anticipate every possible problem is not a reason for a general indictment of the government. The US and UK liberal press – New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian and the BBC – have highlighted this issue as if they are exposing some dark underside of the Modi government’s efforts to handle the crisis. The hypocrisy of such reporting is all the more reprehensible in view of people dying in thousands in Europe, with horrendous accounts of patients denied medical aid because of an overwhelmed health-care system, dying and being buried without family presence, and all this treated not as a gratuitous failure of government policy but as an unfortunate corollary of the virulence of the crisis.
The US/UK liberal press shows no compassion for India’s struggle; it is focused on fault-finding, with a sub-text of anticipation, and even wishfulness, of India succumbing to the crisis. The allegedly ‘morally-deficient’ UN Human Rights chief who finds it easier to question India’s democratic efforts than China’s contempt for democracy has expressed her distress at the plight of migrant workers and has hoped that the measures taken by India are “neither applied in a discriminatory manner nor exacerbate existing inequalities and vulnerabilities”, giving more life thus to propaganda against India. Modi-haters in India and Modi-baiters in western liberal circles have joined hands against the country. These lobbies also want to give an anti-Muslim colour to Modi government’s herculean efforts to meet the crisis with limited resources and many handicaps, by alleging that the crisis has opened the field for it to promote anti-Muslim sentiments in the country, particularly after the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in New Delhi that led to an immediate spiking in infection cases in many Indian states. Calls against stigmatisation of a particular community have been made in the usual Indian and western liberal circles, with Time magazine leading the assault and the rancorous US Commission on International Religious Freedom joining in.
Coloured narrative
It is not the end of the battle for India. Any talk of India being a model for handling the pandemic and taking the lead internationally to combat it would be premature. As it is, India has its hands full in seeking to protect one-sixth of humanity from the calamity inflicted by this Chinese-origin virus. Modi rightly took the initiative to combine efforts within SAARC to combat it regionally. He prompted the Saudi Crown Prince to convene a G 20 video meet to discuss the crisis and establish some consensus at the international level on handling it. The UNSC has been unable to take leadership because of deepening differences between US and China that are reflected in US seeking to pin blame on China for engendering the virus and manipulating the WHO. Trump has temporarily withheld funding for the body till there is clarity on the connivance between its head and China in diffusion of misinformation about the time-lines and toxicity of the virus.
Opportunity in crisis
US, which took the lead in building China’s economic power on mistaken assumptions, has the capacity, along with Europe, to curb Beijing’s excessive ambitions through decoupling trade, investment and technology strategies. India should welcome this as it could benefit from this re-arrangement of equations economically and security-wise. However, India, which needs to manage its ties pragmatically with an adversarial neighbor through engagement, does not need to take sides expressly as it is a subsidiary factor in the developing US-China frictions. India’s stature and Modi’s leadership will get an enormous boost if India defeats this Wuhan virus with least damage. It would have done this with democratic mobilization, proving that democracies are not inherently inefficient in fighting such pandemics. India would also have shown that seemingly chaotic India has the administrative frame and skills to confront a national challenge. This should open doors for it to be a leading power.

Genuinely Fake

Major Gaurav Arya

Indian Army (Retd.)

 
 
 
Mahender Mishar (Mishra) of Behar (Bihar) was a short, dark man who, had you met him in a dark alley, would have probably greeted you with a polite “namaste” and moved forward, head bowed. Until one fine day in probably the mid-1930s (year not known), the British media reported that this seemingly innocent man was a criminal mastermind who had perfected the art of counterfeiting British currency.
Mishra was packed off to prison. Emmerich Heisenberg, a Nazi secret agent in London read about this in the “Daily News” with a great deal of interest. So impressed was he with the entire scam, that he sent a clipping from the newspaper to his boss in Germany, SS Major Bernhard Krüger.
What the Indian had done for personal profit, Nazi Germany started doing, to damage the economy of England. 142 inmates, mostly Jewish, were gathered from Sachsenhausen and Auschwitz, both concentration camps with an evil reputation of sending Jews to the gas chambers. Top German artists, forgers and mathematicians were brought together under the express orders of Fuhrer Adolf Hitler. Bernhard Krüger was made the mission leader, with express orders from Hitler to print counterfeit currency of an extremely high quality, which would pass even the closest of examinations.
Engraving printing plates, developing rag-based paper and breaking the serial number code was difficult, but Nazi Germany has no dearth of talent. By 1942, the Nazis were ready. The operation was named after Krüger.
They called it Operation Bernhard.
And till 1945, till the time the Third Reich fell and the operation was shut down, they had printed £134,610,810 worth of counterfeit currency, in various denominations.
Nazi Germany used the counterfeit British currency to fund their war efforts. It is said that the operation to rescue Il Duce Benito Mussolini was funded entirely by these counterfeit notes.
Someone at the ISI Head Quarters at Islamabad must have been a keen student of military history, especially Nazi Germany’s. Soon after the first Afghan Jihad ended in 1989, the ISI started its secret mission of printing counterfeit Indian currency to destabilize India’s economy and fund its own version of “Jihad” in Kashmir. This counterfeit money was also to be used for funding terrorist activities in India. The modus operandi was the same as Operation Bernhard.
So widespread was the practice that the government gave it a name. FICN (Fake Indian Currency Note) is now an accepted nomenclature for counterfeit Indian currency.
Intelligence sources have quoted to the media (also India Today of 6 November 2016) – quote begins – “Forensic opinion has revealed that the notes have been printed on highly sophisticated machines involving huge capital investment. The pulp found to be 100 per cent rag in the FICN, which is normally used in making currency papers. The perfection of window and watermark formulation indicates the manufacture of FICN paper on regular currency making machines, which can only be owned by a country or state.
Most of the pivotal parameters of the paper like GSM (paper density measured in grams per square meter), Wax Pick Quotient, and Poly Vinyl Alcohol and PH Values were found matching with the legal tender of Pakistan.” (end of quote)
According to a top-secret report complied jointly by RAW, Intelligence Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and CBI, and recently de-classified and published by the media (also News18.com dated 8 November 2016) says that the ISI earns an annual profit of INR 500 crores only from its business of FICN.
Quote begins – “Indian intelligence estimates that terror financiers incur a cost of Rs 39 per ever Rs 1,000 note printed across the border – the RBI spends Rs 29 to print a Rs 1,000 note – but manages to sell it in India through various illegal channels at Rs 350-400.” (end of quote)
The main channels of funneling this cash into India are D Company (owned and controlled by Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar of Karachi), Lashkar-e-Toiba (owned and controlled by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed of Muridke) and Al-badr (owned and controlled by Jasneil Rihal of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). These three main channels of FICN infiltration into India are controlled, protected and directed by the ISI. The counterfeit money has mostly come into India from Dubai, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bihar (border areas).
When the 500 and 1000 rupee notes were declared an invalid tender on 8 November 2016, it was not only a blow to corruption and black money in India. It effectively dealt a deathblow to the ISI’s main terror-financing machine.
Pakistan had gained tremendously by this scam. Not only did they damage India’s economy, they also earned money from India, which was used for financing terror in this country.
This self-sustained cycle of terror and fraudulence is now effectively dead.
 

The Secularism of Olive Green

Major Gaurav Arya

Indian Army (Retd.)

 
 
 
Secularism is the separation of religion and state. Simply put, religion has nothing to do with how a country is ruled. The state itself, at least structurally, is atheist. No one will be discriminated against, on the basis of religion. This is the most widely accepted definition of secularism.
There are a few other motivated definitions, which border on selectively perpetrated fraud.
As a soldier, I am absolutely apolitical. I have nothing whatsoever to do with any political party. I do not understand politics, and neither do I wish to.
But I understand defending the physical and the ideological frontiers of India. I understand it far better than any politician ever will. And the ideology of India is enshrined in its Constitution.
When we pass out of the academy, we swear an oath not on our holy books but on the Constitution of India.
“I hereby solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India, as by law established and that I will, as in duty bound honestly and faithfully, serve in the regular army of the Union of India and go wherever ordered, by land, sea or air, and that I will observe and obey all the commands of the President of the Union of India and the commands of any officer set above me, even to the peril of my life”.
At that moment, the Constitution of India becomes our holy book. We cease to be Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Christians. We become something far greater. We become Indians.
Do you see the mention of religion anywhere in this oath? There isn’t any. And therein lies the seed of secularism in the Indian Army. The Indian Army is the guardian of India’s ideological frontiers because it believes. Faith is the cornerstone of this ideology; faith that all Indians are equal before law. And this ideology has to be protected by conviction if needed, and by violence, when necessary.
During training, when all of us were always on the brink of exhaustion every moment, when giving up was always easier but never an option, we forged a brotherhood so strong that that it has withstood that most fearsome of tests, time.
It never occurred to me that Bali was a Sikh, Sinha a Hindu, Nihal a Muslim and Sam a Christian. We were merely trying to cope, each fighting his own demons and trying his utmost to survive the fire and brimstone that OTA threw at us every minute.
When we entered the academy, we were of different faiths. I don’t know what the Indian Army did to us, but after a year of training our souls had turned olive green. Gradually, the uniform and the flag became the reasons for our existence. And carefree college going youngsters became the defenders of a nation.
Many of those defenders are no more. They were martyred defending India and all that this nation stands for. I have lived with such real examples for a very long time. That’s why it becomes impossible for me to wrap my head around hatred in the name of religion that I see everyday, perpetrated by politicians and fringe groups. These fringe groups are found in every religion.
When you see a Sikh offering Namaz, a Muslim leading the Janmashtami pooja, a Hindu kneeling at Church and a Christian offering sewa at a Gurudwara, you know that you are in the Indian Army. And you know that you are privileged.
The Indian Army has places of worship called “Sarv Dharma Sthal”, a place of worship for all religions. Ram and Rahim are at peace here. There is no conflict. There can never be, because the nation is above everything else. Religion comes much later, if at all.
Secularism, or “sickularism” is a much-abused term today. It has come to mean all that it should not; pandering to minorities and special privileges. But the Indian Army still maintains the original and pristine definition of secularism, without an iota of deviation for the past 69 years, because they have not allowed politicians and their politics to sully it.
There are no vote banks in the Indian Army. There are only victors and martyrs.
We Indians are 1.2 billion strong. For centuries, invaders have taken advantage of the divisions that we created and thrust upon ourselves. We have been ruled for millennia. We are divided, we fight amongst ourselves, we bicker and we intellectualize insignificant things because we lack unity and common cause.
We are responsible for our fault lines. These fault lines are making us weak. And weak nations do not sit at the high table of the United Nations Security Council. Weak nations are not respected.
Overt and covert enemies surround us and they mean us mortal harm.
Any person or organization that disrupts social harmony, that stops India from taking that great leap towards superpower status, has to be stopped with overwhelming force. It could be Muslim groups creating organized havoc in West Bengal or the Shiv Sena doing its brand of insidious and selective vigilantism; both understand the language of violence but have never been confronted with it. They are used to being mollycoddled by the powers that be. They think they are infallible. I am not suggesting that the army be given the responsibility for bringing them to heel; that’s no solution. But a small introduction to the Indian Army would not be such a bad idea. Let them see death clothed in olive green from close quarters, just for the sake of “education”.
I am not fully aware of what is happening in Malda, West Bengal. It would be wrong for me to comment and fuel speculation and rumor. But let me assure you, whatever it is, it will go away with the first Indian Army column marching through the streets. I have seen it in 1992 in Bhopal. The civil administration requisitioned for “aid to civil authorities” after days of rioting. But when they finally did, and it was announced over the radio, every rioter went home quietly. Bhopal returned to normalcy in a few hours. The rioters knew this; a confrontation with the Indian Army goes just one way.
To be strong, we must be united. But this secularism should not be the “sickularism” of the khadi. It must be the secularism of the Indian Army.
Who are Major Shaitan Singh, CQMH Abdul Hamid, Subedar Joginder Singh, Lance Naik Albert Ekka and Lt. Col. Ardeshir Tarapore? Each was awarded the Param Veer Chakra for bravery that will boggle the imagination of generations. They are INDIAN heroes. They are SHAHEED.
This is the brotherhood of olive green. This is secularism, Indian Army style.
 

Of Hawks and Doves

Major Gaurav Arya

Indian Army (Retd.)

 
 
 
All soldiers want peace, and this is an undisputable fact. They want peace because they are the ones who die in war.
I get messages from doves that accuse me of warmongering. They say that I have an unhealthy obsession with war and blood; that I don’t value human life.
Think of me as a surgeon who recommends amputation of a limb that is severely infected by gangrene. If the limb is not cut, the gangrene will spread. The limb has to be cut to save the patient. The surgical procedure is not pleasant. But that does not make me a butcher. I am still a surgeon.
I have nothing against doves. They are the lifeblood of a vibrant counter narrative. But there are some home truths that they need to understand. And unless they understand these truths, their vision will always be blinkered by comfortable vestigial beliefs they have grown up with.
We have been in a state of war with Pakistan for 70 years. Sometimes, the war was conducted from behind the veil of plausible deniability, through proxies, especially late 70s (Punjab) and after 1989 (Kashmir). Sometimes, it was a direct conventional conflict, like we saw in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999 (Kargil).
The 26/11 attacks, terror strike on Pathankot Air Force base and Uri terror attacks are fresh in our memory. In the 1993 Mumbai blasts, which left over 257 dead and over 1400 injured were, all planned, financed and directed from Pakistan. So were the many bomb blasts in market places and public areas across India.
Countless Indian lives have been lost, since 1947. Precious Indian lives are lost everyday on the Line of Control. And unless we accept the harsh truth, we will continue to lose lives everyday.
We recognized Pakistan as an existential threat and took decisive action in 1971 and on 16 December that year, the Pakistani Army, that great protector of the Citadel of Islam, surrendered to the Indian Army. It was a crushing and humiliating defeat and it took Pakistan a few decades to come to terms with the fact that it was left with half of Jinnah’s “moth eaten” state.
After that we went to sleep for eight years, only to be jolted back to reality by the Khalistan movement. That was followed by the Kashmir militancy. The militant movement soon turned to a full scale Wahhabi style terror campaign.
The Punjabi elite, whether military or political, own Pakistan. Yes, they own that country. And deep rooted historical, cultural and religious narratives, convoluted to suit a specific kind of thinking, almost guarantee that Pakistan will always view India as an enemy.
I want to tell the doves in India that irrespective of how many candles you light on the Wagah border, Indian blood will always flow. People to people contact may grow but it will never stop terror. You are making a huge mistake by believing that once people from our countries are friends, all will be well.
All will never be well, because the people of Pakistan have no say in their own destiny. They can never be a pressure group that can alter the way the Pakistan Army thinks and acts.
In many ways, Pakistan is still an absolute monarchy. It may have the trappings of a democracy but the Army Chief is the Emperor. His word is absolute. The people are like sheep, sometimes led to the pen, and sometimes to slaughter.
The problem is the Pakistan Army. It has always been, and always will be. Not until the Pakistan Army has a change of heart, will we have peace. And I don’t see the Pakistan Army lighting candles at Wagah anytime soon.
Whenever doves speak of a people to people connect, they are addressing the wrong constituency.
Our struggle with Pakistan is existential. Ghazwa-e-Hind is not a fairytale. It is as real as Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Many well meaning Ulema will be at pains to convince you that Islam has already ruled the sub-continent and that the prophesy has been realized. It matters little what they say. What matters is what a majority of the Pakistanis believe. Faith can move mountains. Or start bloodbaths.
Iman Taqwa Jihad fi Sabilillah; faith, piety and holy war in the way of Allah. This is the motto of the Pakistan Army. Read this line again. And again. This is the core philosophy of the Pakistan Army. This is driven into the minds of young Pakistani soldiers and officers every day of their training and service. Jihad against India is the raison d’etre of the Pakistan Army, the very reason for its existence.
The Pakistan Army will not stop Jihad against India. In the Pakistani power structure, there is no one higher than the army. They are the Parliament, Supreme Court and stock exchange all rolled into one. For seven decades they have flourished unsupervised and it’s impossible for them to adjust to Parliamentary oversight. And that is why coups happen in Pakistan.
This is the same army that launched a full-scale military invasion in Kargil, without so much as informing the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. This army has assassinated, imprisoned, exiled and dismissed twelve of the seventeen Prime Ministers in its history, sometimes directly and on other more temperate occasions, through proxies.
It is imperative that we realize that we are dealing with a rouge army. And this is why this army must be brought to heel.
I call this my “mowing the lawn” principle. You periodically mow your lawn and cut grass. It’s not the grass’s fault; it’s just the nature of things. So, when you wait for Pakistan to attack, and then plan retaliation, you are just allowing the grass to grow. The Pakistani Army should be attacked without provocation, in small and medium sized actions across the Line of Control, never allowing things to get out of hand, and yet always drawing first blood. The grass must periodically be cut. I am not warmongering. I am just recommending maintenance activity.
The strategy should be to seize the initiative and keep hammering the Pakistan Army periodically; to keep them so preoccupied counting their losses that they have little will to pursue the greater romantic notion of Jihad.
We live in an exciting neighborhood. Jihadis, nuclear weapons, ethnic strife, terrorism, religious extremism, economic instability and a rouge army are facts that we have to exist with.
A gun guarantees peace, not war. After the death of Burhan Wani, Kashmir, and especially South Kashmir, was wracked by violence and stone pelting. Over seventy-five people died. As a last resort, South Kashmir was handed over to the army. In the next 24 hours, everything stopped. Have you seen stone pelting on TV for the past one month?
To light a candle for peace is criminal neglect; it is to turn away one’s face and close one’s eyes thinking that the wolf will not kill you just because you cannot see it.
The Pakistan Army presents a real and credible danger to our nation. We must acknowledge it as such.
We cannot change our neighbor’s heart, or geography. The only alternative is to hammer it into submission.
 

A Tale of Two Cities

Major Gaurav Arya

Indian Army (Retd.)

 
 
 
 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness… 
No one writes like this any more. Charles Dickens would approve. After all he wrote those immortal lines.
Pre French Revolution Paris and London were twins of their unfortunate selves. Envy, greed, lust, subjugation, hopelessness and despair; never were two cities so conjoined in misery.
Certainly not until the late sixties when Pakistan decided to move its national capital from Karachi to Islamabad, a triangular piece of land facing the Margalla Hills. The city is no longer triangular, concrete having taken its toll in making edifices, which outdo each other in a manic nod to mediocrity.
What clinched the location of Pakistan’s new capital was not just what was supposedly wrong with Karachi, but the location’s proximity to Rawalpindi, the home of General Head Quarters, Pakistan Army. GHQ, Rawalpindi is all that Islamabad should have been, but is not. Islamabad should have been the seat of legislative, executive and judicial power in Pakistan. Let not Google tell you otherwise. A building does not a Supreme Court make. And neither does a Parliament full of elected representative lend gravitas to an otherwise dysfunctional nation.
Islamabad is Rawalpindi’s stepbrother.
The tale of these two cities defines the path Pakistan takes. It tells you a tragic story of why military coups happened, and continue to happen. And it also explains Pakistan’s schizophrenic relationship with India.
Whether the winds of misfortune blow from the east or the west, they hit Islamabad first, and Islamabad absorbs terrible seismic shocks that should have come Rawalpindi’s way.
The Pakistan Army is Teflon coated. No amount of mud will stick. It is the only institution in Pakistan that works. To question it is blasphemy. The failures of the Pakistan Army are always attributed to the civilian leadership. From Islamic radicalization to humiliating defeats by India in all wars, it is somehow the fault of everyone else but the Pakistan Army. And the populace believes this with the same fervor that a Catholic believes that Christ walked on water.
Pakistan has the support some important members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a group of 57 Muslim countries. It has the grudging support of America, at least till the war on terror is being fought in Afghanistan, and it has the unequivocal support of China. India cannot diplomatically isolate Pakistan, geography being a legitimate argument.
Economic sanctions will not work on a nation that is already being funded by China and the US. And the IMF and World Bank will not allow Pakistan to go bankrupt.
Whatever we may do, Pakistan will receive money from NATO’s Coalition Relief Fund (CRF). These are monies in lieu of using Pakistani overland routes to transport NATO war supplies to Afghanistan, for the war on terror. China has made substantial investments in Pakistan, specifically in the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor).
What is the Chinese obsession with CPEC and Gwadar about? Oil and distance is what attracts China. Kashgar is at a distance of 2000 kms from Gwadar. When ready, it will save China nautical miles and days. UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia will be at touching distance. Goodbye Malacca Strait. Welcome Gwadar.
Diplomatically isolating Pakistan or sanctioning it has limited feasibility. Pakistan is too geo-strategically important for the world to ignore it. What was important to Alexander the Great and Changez Khan is now important to China and America. They don’t love Pakistan but yes, they need it.
Economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation will hurt the democratically elected government of Pakistan and the common people. It will not hurt the Pakistan Army. And, the Pakistan Army owns the terror infrastructure in Pakistan.
India must clearly recognize and accept two facts. One, there will never be peace with Pakistan because partition was based on the two nation theory of Jinnah. He espoused that Hindus and Muslims were separate nations, and so different that they could not live in the same country. Two, unless we physically stop the Pakistan Army, terror will revisit India again and again.
Terrorism is cheap and Pakistan has the world’s largest inventory of terrorists. The pipeline is spread across 35,000 registered and unregistered madrasas. The waiting list to go to Jannat is extremely long. The faithful are willing.
Even if each madrasa were to send one single student to become a terrorist, you would have three infantry division’s strength of suicide bombers. All this, without the expenditure incurred on infrastructure, advanced training and advanced weaponry. And it would come with that unique positioning that Pakistan loves; plausible deniability.
If we wish for Pakistan to stop exporting terror to India, we must turn off the tap. There is no other road to take.
The Pakistan Army is inferior to the Indian Army in every imaginable way. If you war-gamed every possible scenario, you would come to the conclusion that there is no way the Pakistan Army can win a conventional conflict with India.
Nuclear weapons are fine for global respect and irresponsible sabre rattling, but even a psychotic North Korea, which threatens Armageddon every week, dare not use nuclear weapons.
Over time, Pakistan has successfully managed to convince the world, especially Indians, that its nuclear threshold is extremely low. Pakistan has convinced the world that if threatened, it will use nuclear weapons as first response. These are unfounded, imaginary fears.
After Uri, the national mood has turned dark. There are calls for vengeance and war. I do not belittle vengeance. It is honorable to seek it. But it must be calibrated, so that the effect is fatal.
Crossing the Line of Control to destroy terror camps has no meaning. These camps across the LoC are all rock, canvas and wood. The real terror infrastructure that we are so fond of speaking about is not near the Line of Control, but inside major cities in Pakistan. And the nerve center is Rawalpindi.
What I am proposing will mean blood. It will mean loss of human lives. The market will nosedive and the economy will take a hit. But to assume that the Pakistan Army will stop sponsoring terror if India abrogates or dilutes the Indus River Treaty is living in a fool’s paradise.
The only way to stop terror attacks on India is to physically confront the Pakistan Army and break its spine. All other ways are temporary, at best. That is why we must go to war once, and for the last time settle all accounts between us.
Only then can we hope for a better future for India, and whatever is left of Pakistan.
 

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