Mistakes made by vainglorious politicians dreaming about Nobel Peace Prizes haunt the history of war. Morarji Desai and Inder Kumar Gujral were two lotus eaters who thought Pakistan’s jihad factory would produce Gandhians if India stopped intelligence ops across the border. After Abhinandan Varthaman’s release, Imran Khan wants a Nobel. But Narendra Modi is no Morarji and Khan is not Anwar Sadat.
The story of Morarji’s naive faith in Zia-ul-Haq, the Islamiser of Pakistan, is tragically comic. Morarji refused to bomb Kahuta, where Zia was making N-bombs. Morarji asked RAW for proof. At great risk to his life, an Indian operative got a job in a salon in Kahuta where engineers came for haircuts. He was able to get some hairs, which were sent to Delhi for testing.
They proved to be radioactive. The dictator lied to Morarji that they were nuclear plants for civilian purposes. Today, the world’s greatest fear is of Zia’s bombs falling into jihadi hands. Morarji also halted all RAW ops in Pakistan. Gujral delivered the coup de grâce decades after by turning over our assets in Pakistan. But no lessons were learned. Years later, human intelligence in Kashmir would become a casualty of the War of the Generals Deepak Kapoor and VK Singh, benefitting Pakistan and jihadis.
Narendra Modi is not just patriotic, he is jingoism positive. He is also politically incorrect and insensitive to debilitating ailments like dyslexia; no joking matter. He is also not above using military successes electorally, like he did with the 2016 surgical strikes for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. Balakot air strikes are his new ammunition.
The Opposition is doing itself no favours by questioning the government, alleging the strikes never happened. As proof starts to trickle in, it is obvious that an admirable political strategy has been devised; no more of releasing info first and defending it subsequently. Modi’s tactic is to provoke the wrong questions which are then answered with credible proof in a calibrated manner to last the desirable length of time.
Former superspy and now NSA Ajit Doval is Modi’s trusted lieutenant who has a say in all policy matters, if sources are to be taken seriously. The air strikes could not have occurred without accurate intelligence in a jihad-contaminated location—a high-risk play for an informer though Doval was running point.
Previous prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh had access to info proving Pak’s hand in major terror attacks. Unlike Morarji, they believed their agencies but stayed morally lofty. The Modi-Doval doctrine is to strike back mercilessly. In the process, the Congress, which seemed to be gaining ground in opinion polls, has been bombed. It will find it difficult to crawl out of the craters in May.