To war or not to war with Pakistan: Strategy, not public mood, should drive Modi govt

More than fear and insecurity, it is outrage that is driving public opinion after the terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama. There is widespread expectation that the Narendra Modi government retaliate using military force and further, conversationally at least, many people want to go to war with Pakistan

To the extent that such a state of public opinion allows the government a greater leeway in terms of options, it’s a good thing. On the flip side, to the extent that it compels the government to respond to the popular mood, it is dangerous. Politics might almost always be a popularity contest, but statecraft is not. If India must retaliate against Pakistan, it must be for reasons of strategy, not to assuage outraged public opinion.

The strategic reason for India to retaliate is to impose costs on the Pakistani military-jihadi complex so as to deter further attacks to the extent possible. If an attack on India goes without punishment, the military-jihadi complex will be encouraged to carry out more. Retaliation is also necessary to persuade the Pakistani military establishment that it cannot use its nuclear shield and Chinese political cover to attack India with impunity.

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