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Capital Matters

Capital Grapevine  

Virendra Kapoor

Post-Pulwama Pakistan stands isolated and penniless as world looks other way

The war-like situation is over. For now. Even as the Pakistani generals contemplate the next move peering morosely into their un-Islamic whisky glasses, our politicians on either side of the power divide weigh the gains and losses of the recent action on the LOC through the prism of elections. As of now, the dice is loaded firmly against the Mahathugbandhan, er… sorry, Mahagathbandhan. If nothing unforeseen happens between now and the polling day, Modi is on course to earn a second term with more or less the same number of seats.

Lest you think, a fortnight after Pulwama has made Modi’s return possible, you may be wrong. He was already reasonably certain of victory on the back of several people-friendly measures. Space does not permit enumerating the entire list of direct and indirect benefits to the poor. Suffice to say common Indians are not ungrateful.

But post-Pulwama, the electoral pendulum may have swung 80: 20 in favour of Modi, as against 60:40 before it. More than the number of fatalities inflicted, the fact that Pak sovereignty was breached openly for the first time in over fifty years was a huge plus of the retaliatory strikes. Pakistan stands warned of a sterner punishment if it perpetrated more Pulwamas. Television channels should make a collage of the Opposition faces on the day of Pulwama and then on the days India responded. Colour seemed to have run out of their faces.

That would explain why Mamata Banerjee, a putative prime ministerial candidate among some half-a-dozen others, virtually suggested that the suicide bomber of CRPF men was the handiwork of Modi. Till Modi silenced them with the retaliatory attack, the Opposition was gung-ho, daring him to show his 56-inch ~chhatti~. And when he did, they moaned and groaned in silence.

The aftermath of Pulwama also forced the Opposition to stitch up new alliances. Kejriwal was on all fours, begging for a tie-up with the Congress but it dismissed the supplicant with utter contempt. After Pulwama, Rahuljee is ready to sup with the AAP boss who had hurled unprintable expletives against the Family.

Quite aside from the electoral fall-out of the post-Pulwama events, even Modi’s visceral critics will find it hard not to acknowledge the skillful manner he handled the situation. While the armed forces did their job competently, Modi pressed all the right diplomatic buttons to put Pakistan in the dock of global opinion. China abandoned its all-weather friend for the first time and called the Jaish-e-Mohammed by name, urging Pakistan to act against it. Getting Pakistan to release the captured pilot within 24-hours was a success of the same coercive diplomacy. Remember, not all pilots captured by Pak in the earlier wars were released immediately; in fact, some of them were fatally tortured.

Still, it would be wrong to assume Pakistan will draw the right lessons from its humiliation. You are living in a fool’s paradise if you think Imran Khan would be different. His Oxford background and a westernized outlook, makes no difference to the Rawalpindi GHQ. Imran has already been tested --- and found wanting. He disinvited a respected World Bank economist to join his advisory council once the Islamists raised Cain because he was an Ahmadiyya. And gave in to the same Islamists who demanded continued incarceration for Asia Bibi despite her being freed by the Supreme Court. Now, if Imran cannot do justice in the case of this hapless woman, how do you expect him to challenge the fat-cat generals on their very raison d’etre? Someone who tried, now finds himself cooling his heels in prison. His name: Nawaz Sharif.

Self-promoting pacifists, secular-liberals, etc., can preen themselves for the benefit of their peers, but in the real world no one can afford to lose sight of Pakistan’s perfidious record since inception. Successive Indian governments have paid a heavy price for extending the olive branch only to be deluded and disdained by the GHQ. Unless you cede Kashmir, Pakistan will not change. Blunting the Pakistani challenge with all the resources at our command remains the only available alternative? Both neighbours being nuclear-powered , therefore, one must bow down before the other’s jihadi menace was a long-standing myth till February 26th. After that, it lies buried several fathoms deep. Isn’t that a big gain? Those who nitpick about the success of Balakot operation need to brush up on military warfare -- a greater success lies in psyching out the enemy rather than counting the number of casualties in a single aerial sortie.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is rich only in feeding its poor with an abundance of anti-India propaganda. Otherwise, its economy is sinking. It goes with a begging bowl to the world capitals. Even the Chinese, the Saudis and the UAEs have doubts their bail-outs will help since the military guzzles up a huge chunk of its resources. Remember the biggest factories, businesses, farms , etc. are army- owned. Of course, America is no longer gullible to extend Pakistan help and then have that had bitten by the GHQ.

Pakistani rupaiya has devalued by fifteen percent in the last few months. It now costs 140 to buy a dollar, that is if officially available. Twenty billion dollars from the Saudi slave-master, MBS, can barely meet its current account deficit of $111 billion - and rising each month. Besides, the size of its economy at a little over $ 350 billion is in no position to challenge India’s at nearly $ 2. 5 trillion. In fact, in purchasing power parity, the Indian economy is nearly $ nine trillion.

In other words, Pakistan, wracked by constant internal strife and suicidal jihadi terror, can hardly sustain a conventional war against India. As Pervez Musharaff said a few days ago, if it ever thought of using one nuclear bomb, India with its much superior numbers could wipe its name off the global map.

If Pakistan is wise, it would cut its losses, abandon its anti-India obsession and join the comity of civilized nations. Otherwise, it gazes at doom and gloom. As for India, it is in its own interest to keep up the pressure. Pakistan will not abandon its evil ways. It will lie low for some time, nurse its wounds and return to mischief. India cannot afford to lower its guard. Indira Gandhi committed a Himalayan blunder releasing the huge pressure on Pakistan following the Bangladesh war by freeing 95,000 POWs. Thus, a defeated and humbled Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was let off the hook.

What was won on the war front, was lost on the negotiating table in Shimla. Verbally, Bhutto agreed to convert the LOC into the international border, but pleaded it not be reduced to writing because he would be lynched on landing in Lahore. A gullible ~Durga Mata~ missed a golden opportunity to end the bloody conflict in Kashmir, while Bhutto went on to commit Pakistan to a thousand- year war against India. Modi, on the other hand, can be relied upon not to fall for any such traps.