Modi Seeking Limited War With Pakistan Ahead of Elections?

Posted on Posted inOpinion

IRSHAD SALIM (OCT 7, 2018): India may have shifted gears which opens the space for it to wage a limited conventional war, says a report.

“It is too early to say what impact a shift in India’s strategy will have on bilateral relations with (its western neighbor) Pakistan and how the latter intends to respond, but what can be said is that the old playbook is probably reaching its end.”

Over time, such a policy has the capacity to alter the dynamics between New Delhi and Islamabad significantly, which would have broader political, military and strategic implications, the analysis claims.

The analysis is couched in an article published by The Diplomat and written by Dr. Nishank Motwani is a Visiting Fellow at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, The Australian National University, and Consulting Researcher for Armed Conflict at The International Institute for Strategic Studies (London).

The author claims his analysis is based on fieldwork and extensive interviews he conducted with strategic thinkers on both sides of the border.

“Small but significant shifts in Indian and Pakistani strategic thinking point to the viability of a limited conventional war under a nuclear threshold”. The interviews, the author says, reaffirmed that this trend had gained traction in some sections of the strategic communities in New Delhi and Islamabad, increasing the likelihood of a short, sharp, but limited conflict.

Recent developments suggest that there is scope for a limited conflict between the two neighbors under the nuclear threshold, says the author.

The military action would help assuage public opinion that is increasingly demanding the political leadership in New Delhi punish Pakistan for its moral support to Kashmiris across the Line of Control (LoC), the author states.

India’s Prime Minister Modi is said to be mobilizing to win the re-election early next year. But he and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are being buffeted for a lack of jobs, falling prices of agricultural commodities and rural wages, a tax reform that led to unemployment and a demonetization exercise that sapped liquidity.

Despite fairly well economic growth, the fall of the rupee currency to record lows this year has led to a surge in prices of largely imported fuel, which is feeding into inflation. Nationwide protests have broken out because of the price rise.

In a series of interviews conducted by Aljazeera in India’s political heartland, the northern and central plains, many people said they had been disappointed by Modi’s government. But in a nation of 1.3 billion people, it was difficult to estimate how far the disillusionment had spread and how much it could affect Modi and the BJP at the next general election — the BJP remains robustly Hindu nationalist, which plays well among many voters.

Modi’s aides insist the party will not suffer in the election and will repeat the 2014 performance.

They also say the BJP will do well in three out of five big state elections due in November thru December 2018, which could signal how things will go in the general election.

Opinion polls predict Modi will stay in power but the gap against the opposition was narrowing.

Some BJP officials privately said they are not quite sure of sentiment in the small towns and villages of rural India, where two-thirds of the people live.

Many political analysts say Modi’s failure to create tens of millions of jobs for the country’s youth – a promise which helped him secure the largest mandate in three decades in 2014 – would be the biggest threat to his bid for another term.

“No one here will vote for Modi,” said Rakesh Kumar, a college graduate in the town of Kasba Bonli in northern Rajasthan state who says he has worked as a house painter because he could not get any other employment.

Kumar said he finally found a job as a teacher in a private college last month but his monthly salary is only 8,000 rupees (about $111). The town voted overwhelmingly for the BJP in 2014.

India Today news magazine published a survey last month predicting the BJP would lose seats compared with 2014, but retain just enough to form a government with allies if the opposition remained divided.

What could become a game-changer in favor of Modi? If the author’s article is read in between the lines, despite the risk of escalation, India is ready to “use force against Pakistan (over Kashmir) and to publicize its action even though it by no means may be strategic in nature”.

Is it then meant to stoke further Hindu nationalism for Modi to win? According to a US Congressional report, Hindu nationalism is rising in India and eroding its secular nature, as it warned that social media platforms provide “both tacit and overt sanction” for rising incidents of “majoritarian violence” in the country.

The report was published in late August by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) — an independent and bi-partisan research wing of US Congress.

The CRS report (prepared for members of the US Congress ahead of the Indo-US 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi on September 6) said perceived “abuses” have produced friction in the US-India relationship, including within the US Congress.

(The author is a business & construction consultant, analyst, and Editor-in-Chief of PKonweb, DesPardes and BE2C2 Report)

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