It is difficult to imagine that in late September, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi challenged Pakistan to a war against poverty, a host of commentators were praising his strategic restraint. A few days later,the government went public with details of a raid along the border that it termed a surgical strike. Once again, there was no shortage of commentators who were lavish in their praise for Modi. In a column titled, “End of History, Beginning of History,” Shekhar Gupta, the former editor-in-chief of the Indian Express, identified the move as momentous and described the current government as one that saw “national benefit” in disrupting status quo.
It has since turned out that in the game of kabaddi that has been played out for decades between Indian and Pakistan across the Line of Control, this was but another raid. It is still not clear what the aims or objectives of this exercise were, so the question of asking whether it achieved its end does not arise. The beginning of a new history, if we are to believe Gupta, lay in the fact that we had decided to own up to this raid.
Security establishments across the world, obviously including the one in Pakistan, are well aware of the history of such raids between the two countries. Clearly, the Indian government’s messaging was not about ability or intent, it was about alerting ordinary citizens. By choosing to withhold any evidence that would independently confirm the raid, it became clear that this messaging was directed at citizens within the country, most of whom are always eager to buy into acts of self-assertion in a climate of heightened border tensions. It was unlikely that people elsewhere would buy the unsubstantiated claims of an alien government.