For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a clever politician and a quick-change artiste, a "strategic restraint" comes handy to retreat into a shell of a peace-dove, though Uri would not be forgotten. (Pak-based terrorists massacred 19 Indian soldiers on 18 September in a nocturnal attack on the army camp in Uri, laying bare again our security gaps).
Retribution demanded by drum-beating BJP has been soft-pedalled and cadres will go by what their oracle has pronounced. Without giving up bellicosity, Modi challenged Pakistan to compete with India in growth, development and export of goods - not terrorism - and also gave a call to the innocent Pakistani millions to rise in revolt to ask for incomes and jobs.
The venue was Kozhikode, with BJP's eye on Kerala for the next power grab, and Modi’s harangue, sounding sensible, came at the end of the two-day meeting of the party's national executive, where Uri dominated its deliberations. That a war has become a zero-sum game is by now well-established even among the world’s most powerful rivals in the West, let alone the poorer nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours.
It is a tactical advantage which Pakistan exploits to full to threaten nuclear retaliation for any counter-action even with conventional weapons from the Indian side of Indo-Pak LOC. So, Pakistan continues to bleed India with its sheltered hordes of militants under various garbs and disowning responsibility.
What are India’s options? More. Lately, after a series of missteps by the Prime Minister, India has been able to make progress in isolating Pakistan as a terror state though with Chinese veto – maybe even Russian – the United Nations cannot be persuaded to declare it as such. That Pakistan had long been an epi-centre of international terrorism, has remained well recognised, by the United States even as the super-power was aiding and arming Pakistan as a ‘front-line state’ in fighting terrorism!
All that the Modi government -- learning lessons of governance the hard way after two years of bombasts - can do is to reinforce our defences across borders and lines of control and keep resorting to ‘war by other means’, building more pressures through international diplomacy. In this category comes Modi's out-reach to Balochistan, which has been fighting Islamabad's tyranny for decades and this has already drawn the world's attention.
The suppression of Balochis, to retain their pre-partition independence, can no longer be a closed book. Some of revolting Baluchi leaders are seeking possible asylum in India. (Pakistan forcibly took over this strategic border state with an independent ruler, at the time of partition).
However strong India’s case against Pak-occupied territories besides parts of Kashmir, it has other constraints, such as a geo-strategic challenge from China, an all-weather ally of Pakistan, heavily committed to its infrastructure development through Balochistan with building a naval base in Gwadar.
Again, India can review its ancient Indus Treaty with Pakistan (under World Bank auspices) and exercise rights as upper riparian state - a water blockade? Here one hears unofficial noises from China talk of what it could do with Brahmaputra.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister would do well to ensure restoration of normalcy in Kashmir by enabling the J and K PDP-BJP coalition government to settle with non-separatists day-to-day grievances with an assurance of its functioning with greater autonomy like other states within the Indian Union, with some additional safeguards.