The Big Story: Cannon fodder

An Indian soldier was beheaded and two others killed along the Line of Control in Machil in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday. This comes three weeks after Sepoy Mandeep Singh was beheaded. While the Indian government has not directly named any organisation, several media reports blamed the Pakistani Army and its Border Action Team for carrying out these mutilations.

On September 29, the Union government announced that it has conducted raids against terror infrastructure along the Line of Control, in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The so-called surgical strikes were seen as a response to the September 18 attack on an Indian Army facility in Uri, Kashmir, in which militants had killed 19 soldiers.

This announcement was good politics, since it helped shore up Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image as a hardliner on Pakistan. However, it wasn’t good military strategy. Rather than make life safer for the Indian soldier at the LoC, it seems to have made matters worse.

The 2003 Line of Control ceasefire is now, for all practical purposes, dead. Heavy crossfire is exchanged everyday by both armies leading to loss of life – both solider and civilian – and destruction of property. The hostilities have claimed the lives of 17 Indian military personnel. This is almost equal to the death toll at Uri (19) – which precipitated the September 29 surgical strike in the first place.

When India carried out the September 29 announcement, it seemed not to care that an open confrontation would only help Pakistan’s military. The army in Pakistan operates independently of civilian control and hostilities with India only increase its power within the sphere of domestic politics.

It is clear that the Indian government has backed itself into a corner. The Union government made it clear in its statement that the September 29 operation was a one-off event and it did “not have any plans for further continuation”. While Pakistan has kept up a constant stream of provocation since then, the Indian government has been forced to restrain itself.

It may be useful to remember how India had dealt with Pakistan on the LoC under the last regime, carrying out raids when necessary (nine times, as per one count) but not using them as a political tool. It might not have won the Union government a reputation for bravado but it was by far the more intelligent approach to securing India’s interests.

The Big Scroll

  1. The aftermath of the “surgical strikes” raises concerns, writes Saikat Datta.
  2. BJP’s decision to publicly announce the surgical strikes publicly was a political move aimed at calming its angry cadre, reports Dhirendra Jha.
  3. Shoaib Daniyal argues that politicising the surgical strikes is actually a good thing in a democracy.

Political Picks

  1. Arvind Kejriwal to take on demonetisation on Narendra Modi’s constituency of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
  2. To speed their passage, the Union government plans to slot the Goods and Services Tax Bills as money bills.
  3. No place for Amartya Sen in Nalanda University board. His ouster comes in the wake of the Nobel Laureate’s criticism of the Prime Minister.
  4. The National Investigative Agency raids two more premises of Zakir Naik’s banned Islamic Research Foundation.


  1. In the Hindu, Tanu Kulkarni writes about the 25% reservation quota mandated by the Right to Education has exposed India’s horrific class divide.
  2. The tussle between the judiciary and the Narendra Modi-led Union government does not bode well for Indian democracy, argues Christophe Jaffrelot in the Indian Express.
  3. In the New York Review of Books, historian William Dalrymple  writes on the beautiful, magical world of Rajasthani art.      


Don’t Miss

Saikat Datta explains how a change of guard in the Pakistan Army may be driving border hostilities

While the Indian government is keen on putting up a muscular front after the Uri killings, the Pakistani military also needs to show kills to justify its hegemony over the country’s political processes. Therefore, their claim of killing 11 Indian soldiers last week fits into a convenient narrative.

Four Pakistani generals are waiting in the wings to take over from Sharif on November 29. Lieutenant Generals Javed Iqbal Ramday, Qamar Javed Bajwa, Zubair Mehmood Hayat and Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmad are the front-runners for the post. As per protocol, the decision on the next chief will be taken by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but it is well known that the Pakistan Army will be the real decision maker.

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