Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat, has been busy doing nothing to contribute to regional peace and security in recent days. Whilst one would expect the army chief — any army chief — to adopt a strong posture as and when necessary it serves nobody well when an army chief chooses to lay about himself willy-nilly. It was President Trump whilst in a tweet-fight with Kim Jong-Un of North Korea that first used the ‘my nuclear button is bigger than your nuclear button and mine works’ jibe and General Rawat has picked it up. His comments about calling Islamabad’s nuclear bluff have provoked a response to the effect that such statements only worsen the tension and heat up the broth of managed instability. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif tweeted that he found such statements “irresponsible” and he is right — they are.
Whatever the profile of General Rawat’s crude bellicosity it is unlikely that he or any other player on the Indian side actually wants to engage in a nuclear conflict, and neither does Pakistan. Even a so-called ‘limited’ exchange of 100 or fewer warheads would physically break both countries and they may not recover for generations. A nuclear war is unwinnable. Both sides know that. There remains the possibility, remote but there, of an ‘accidental’ nuclear discharge by either side which can never be discounted. What General Rawat is doing is giving the instability screws a twist, seeking to keep Pakistan on the back foot, the defensive, at the same time as keeping the Kashmir pot on a rolling boil.
On Sunday January 14th, he appeared to apply the handbrake acknowledging that space needed to be given to political initiatives as a means of achieving peace. He added, however, that politics would have to go ‘hand in hand’ with military option. If General Rawat thinks that there is anything to be gained by ramping up military operations in Kashmir, then he is deluded. The situation has been stalemated for decades and India has consistently for all that time scuppered any peaceful moves that Pakistan might make, and General Rawat brings nothing to the table other than bitter tea.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2018.
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