Uri. Who dunnit? No one knows yet, despite some early hyperbolic ‘evidences’. But let’s embark on an open-ended analysis.
Let’s approach it from a motives and benefits perspective. First the benefits: India clearly benefits in terms of narrative. But would the Indian state carry out a false flag operation that kills a couple of dozen of its own soldiers to try and gain an upper hand on the narrative that might win in the international arena? Who knows – I certainly don’t. But so far, facts on the ground support the false flag theory as world attention has indeed diverted away from India’s human rights abuses in Kashmir and focused on the hostilities between India and Pakistan that have brought war clouds to the horizon.
Having said that, the deflection would still prove to be temporary only, especially if the Kashmiri resistance is genuine – and by all accounts it is genuine and indigenous. Moreover, there is no indication that Delhi intends to talk to the political leadership of the valley and intends to continue the occupation and subjugation of its people. Hence, the nature of the effect of a false flag would remain transient. So does that exonerate the Indian establishment? Well, not completely, because who can account for mad elements in any establishment or organisation? But barring madness and fringe elements, any state or government would be quite unlikely to carry out false flags on its own people because of some very real possible consequences and risks.
Still, too many people in Pakistan are firmly convinced of a false flag because they are wont to not consider other possibilities.
Next, what were Mr Modi’s most important election promises? First, growth and economy and second, a tough stance on Pakistan’s use of non-state actors against India. Would Modi have ordered Uri himself? Well, he partially won the election on a tough stance against Pakistan in case of any adventurism; he berated Congress for, amongst other things, never punishing Pakistan; he promised tough action against Pakistan after Pathankot ((which was proven to have been the work of Pakistan based jihadi group, the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) beyond doubt)). So unless Mr Modi wanted to start or risk war, he wouldn’t initiate Uri himself. Would he? I wonder.
Question: does Modi want to start a war? Is it in Modi’s interest to start a war? He has everything to lose by starting a war: the risk of escalation to the use of nuclear weapons, damage to the fabulously performing Indian economy, foreign investment, narrative, high moral ground, international opinion and more. Next, is there any way in which his position would be bolstered domestically? Has he been losing his grip on power or popularity that he might try and fortify with a war misadventure? Well, is approval ratings are high in India. His international partnerships have expanded with some very real jewels like the US and Afghanistan and Iran. His economy is roaring. So it’s hard to come up with reasonable explanations for Modi to carry out a false flag with retaliation against Pakistan, with a very real risk of a nuclear war breaking out, unless his calculus made him certain that it would never result in full blown war. Possible. But requires a reckless amount of confidence in one’s strategy to divert attention from atrocities in Kashmir.
The next suspect, of course, is Pakistan. Did Pakistan stand to benefit by having an unnecessary terrorist attack in Indian occupied Kashmir to draw the world’s attention to it? Well, the world’s attention was already focused on it. Why would Pakistan actually help the Modi government from diverting attention on its human rights abuses and focus them on Pakistan’s enduring reputation of being a terror sponsoring state? The Prime Minister was due to host the next SAARC summit to be held in Islamabad, which would of course get scuppered and damage Mian Nawaz Sharif’s claims to statesmanship. Any progress at the SAARC summit, however unlikely, would also have skyrocketed his domestic approval ratings for having accomplished any economic, political, social, strategic or other feats – practically guaranteeing his success in the next election. Because CPEC is in the bag, some economic indicators have improved, not withstanding exports and agriculture, and power projects are underway with visible decrease in electricity load shedding already. But scuppered SAARC did get, and took all the potential glory with it.
The Prime Minister was flying to New York to highlight the plight of the Kashmiris at the UN General Assembly and seek international support for the Kashmiris’ cause, and to try and win back international support for the stance of the civilian government in Pakistan. But now he had to contend with frozen shoulders and fence with accusations of Pakistan have perpetrated yet another terror attack on a foreign country. So out the door went his moments of glory or any real support from any international leader of note.
Would a risk of war have somehow gained him anything? Well, war or a risk of war would all resources, time and hardwork spent on turning around the energy crisis would be laid to waste and reverse the economic gains that are supposed to win him the next election; the efforts of attracting Chinese and other foreign investment would be laid to waste; all this attendant with human costs of war. No, I think one can safely assume Uri would not have been his cup of tea.
Then there are the stone wielding indigenous Kashmiris who could have perpetrated Uri. There’s always a possibility some of them could have acquired the weaponry, training and sophistication required for the spectacular attack. But probability? Low, very low. First, no evidence has emerged to support this theory. Second, historically, militant training has always led its tracks back to Pakistani establishment – that would point to Pakistan rather than to the indigenous Kashmiris. Lastly, would Kashmiris do this when the world was on the brink of pressuring India to politically resolve their problems? I wouldn’t think so because it stands to hurt the Kashmiri people and their cause further. But these attackers might think otherwise.
Having said all this, only in January this year Pathankot attack did happen. And Pakistan has had to accept the evidence that squarely established it was carried out by JeM from Pakistani territory. Yet, the irritating Modi forgave Pakistan. And the irritating Nawaz Sharif ordered the Counter Terrorism Department to kill or arrest JeM throughout in Punjab. And the irritating Modi has a habit of dropping by to attend weddings at personal abodes of our PM. And the irritating Nawaz, of exchanging gifts and creating bonhomie with neighbours. Anyway, the operation against the JeM was taken over by the able military of Pakistan and PM Nawaz was relieved to concentrate on other things.
So I don’t know who dunnit. But sure as hell, evidence will emerge. As it did in cases of Mumbai’s 7/11 attack, Samjhota Express attack, Pathankot attack, the Indian Parliament attack and all the rest. Till then, we can hold on to our favourite suspicions.
Gul Bukhari, The Nation