The Big Story: No quick fix
Seven Indian soldiers were killed on Tuesday, after militants attacked an artillery unit compound close to the Corps Headquarters in Nagrota, less than 15 kilometres away from Jammu. The militants entered the officers’ mess, according to the Times of India, where they threw grenades. They then headed towards a residential complex, creating a hostage-like situation before eventually being killed. Northern Command said it had recovered the bodies of three militants.
The attack raises many questions. This is the latest in a series of offensives – from Gurdaspur to Pathankot to Uri – targeted specifically at Army bases even though civilian areas were nearby and vulnerable. The Indian Express reports that there was intelligence regarding an attack specifically on this unit, and even if that signal was lost in the noise, the failure to adequately secure bases in the aftermath of Pathankot and Uri is damning. The Times of India reports that there has been “very little follow-up action” to recommendations on changing the operating procedure for base perimeters in the aftermath of Pathankot.
This is cause for concern for everyone along the border and the Line of Control, since the success of every attack on a base will beget further attacks. The ability of militants to expand into Punjab, with the Gurdaspur attack last July, and Jammu, with this one, makes the signs even more ominous.
In Delhi, and the rest, of the country there is another danger. A single attack cannot serve as damning evidence for any policy, either confirming or denying its success. Nagrota alone doesn’t tell us whether the surgical strikes had any effect on operations on the other side, or whether the government’s demonetisation move – withdrawing older currency notes and replacing them with new ones – has crippled the funding of militants.
But that is no succour for the families of the seven soldiers killed on Tuesday. For the rest of the country, being fed the narrative that the surgical strikes and demonetisation would be a panacea for terror, casualty counts like this have an even bigger effect on morale.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, on November 27, said that demonetisation has stopped money being fed to terrorists and criminals, and claimed that, with the forces replying tit-for-tat at the LoC, “the country’s borders are now completely secure”. Yet the surgical strikes, a much-publicised offensive along the Line of Control earlier this year, seem to have done little to prevent infiltration or attacks on the LoC. With Nagrota, it’s clear that funding to militants has not been choked enough to end attacks either.
Offering up such simplistic narratives is to risk endangering the effectiveness of these policies, since it becomes evident that they are not a quick fix. Narendra Modi’s government has, time and again, resorted to chest-thumping optics over a more nuanced line. But the danger of that backfiring is more than evident, and is a concern best put to Parrikar himself: Did he really believe the borders are “completely secure”? And if so, why are seven soldiers now dead?
The Big Scroll: Scroll.in on the day’s biggest story
- Did the surgical strikes actually end up harming India’s interests, asks Shoaib Daniyal.
- No war, no peace: The aftermath of the “surgical strikes” raises concerns, writes Saikat Datta.
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- Ajit Ranade in Mint lists out the reforms needed to extend this black money clean up into the political sphere as well.
- Intelligence services knew there was an attack being planned on Nagrota, Praveen Swami writes in the Indian Express, and yet militants were able to enter the complex.
- Adi Godrej told NDTV that it is “impossible to transit to a cashless economy... in the near or distant future” and warned that if cash doesn’t return to the system soon it will have long-term damage.
- Bankers and analysts now expect as much as 90%-95% of the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes to return to the system, write P Vaidyanathan Iyer and George Mathew in the Indian Express, raising questions about the aims of the demonetisation scheme.
- “Fidel Castro’s obituary cost us more man/woman hours over the years than any piece we’ve ever run,” says the New York Times’ obituaries editor, one of 16 editors who discuss how Castro’s obit came together.
Sanjay Srivastava writes about the lure of collective suffering, to understand why demonetisation is so popular among the poor.
“In recent times, there has been a persistent effort to make suffering a part of the Indian collective consciousness. This has borne fruit and there are many, already burdened with substantial amounts of misery, who do not want to be part of a national shame and not suffer. The key aspect in all this is to be able to convince those at the bottom of the socio-economic pile that further suffering is the route to personal and collective salvation. Put another way, the material economy – actually existing inequalities – has been cast in the mould of a spiritual one. In this spiritual economy, there is the blood of martyrs, water reserved for our own people and the everlasting blessings of the mother figure. Within a spiritual community, actually existing distinctions are effaced through veiling the human-made inequalities of the world with ideas of a unified spirit, an undifferentiated people.”