In recent days people living along the LOC have found that the only sound that can drown the explosion of shells and the almost continuous crackle of small-arms fire is the belligerent bombast from sections of the Indian military and political leadership, who talk in terms of “punitive retaliatory fire, befitting response” and sometimes release video recordings of Pakistani installations being demolished ~ not sparing even a stray thought for the misery of the common folk on both sides.
Against that backdrop it was positive to note the maturity and restraint expressed by a couple of three-star Generals at a recent seminar at Panjab University, Chandigarh.
Full marks must accrue to Lieutenants-General MM Naravne, GOC-in-C Army Training Command and Surinder Singh, GOC-in-C Western Command.
Not only did they disprove the common misperception that soldiers prefer guns to “grey matter” to do the talking, they willy-nilly exhibited considerable moral courage when taking a line in some contrast with the bellicosity of South Block and the political establishment.
While General Surinder Singh questioned the wisdom of the “two-front” theory advanced by some sitting a long away from the battlefront, General Naravane emphasised the need to lower the temperature along the LOC. Adding, that to attain that objective there was need for “statesmanship” rather than “brinkmanship”.
How those sanguine views will be taken by South Block, or the hyperactive “command chorus” of media-savvy veterans, will be worth noting. Referring to the tit-for-tat action on the LOC, Gen Naravane said “we need to analyse what will be the end result of this approach.
Kashmir still remains far from normal despite the strategy of matching response being followed by both nations… there is no shying away from the fact that a lasting peace can only be found at the negotiating table”. Pakistan was like a mirror on the wall, “we need to look at it and not make the same mistakes, particularly in the light of growing radicalisation and intolerance within our own society over mundane issues.
And he proved a capacity to see the “bigger picture” when he brought effective supporting fire to bear when recalling the plea from internationally-acclaimed Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jehangir, “I request you, don’t compete with our weaknesses”.
It was not smart to talk of fighting both China and Pakistan asserted Gen Surinder Singh. He felt that improved relations with China would bring India greater leverage over Pakistan.
“Working with China will secure our side of the border”. Noting the nuclear status of both Pakistan and China, he said “you can only push them conventionally to a limit and not beyond that.
No nuclear nation can be browbeaten beyond a particular stage.” It was for the government to assess those limits. To put it bluntly, while bellicosity may pay short-term electoral dividends, the two Generals provided a critical reality-check. And much-need sanity in murky scenario.