Balakot fission continues

Sankar Ray

The ruling NDA government, led by the BJP and headed by ‘Chowkidar’ Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi continues to be bullied by the Balakot misadventure in the wee hours of 26 February last. The latest is a spanner from a Pakistani scholar Sara Sultan, human rights analyst with an M.Sc in Human Rights from The London School of Economics. In an article in the Pak daily Roznama Pakistan, she questioned the legality of the air strike by the Indian Air Force at Balakot in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Azad Jammu & Kashmir (the Pakistan occupied Kashmir), referring to Article 51 of the UN Charter. She wrote: “…entire concept of preemptive strike is disputed as a controversial phenomenon under international law, despite a foreseeable threat. Despite this caveat, the Indian government did not extend credibility to their rhetoric in light of the rules and regulations articulated within international law. Invoking Article 51 of the UN Charter and defining their action as ‘preemptive self defense’ as opposed to ‘preemptive strike’ could have achieved this. Although Pakistan claimed that it had acted in self-defense, note that just like India, it did not invoke Article 51of the UN Charter, which allows states to recur to force as a measure of self-defense. The context in question is extremely complex because Article 51 can only be invoked if there is a state sponsored armed attack.” Veteran civil rights activist and a frontline functionary of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties Ajay Datta, responded when his attention was drawn to Sara Sultan’s accusation towards India. “The point, raised by the Pakistani academic, demands a dispassionate review. The relevant UN Charter empowers a country under military attack an inalienable right to self-defense. The Pak human rights scholar cites how the point was taken up by the International Court of Justice that ‘articulated the matter’ with measured ‘gravity, scale and effects’.

The UN Charter 51 states, “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” India’s law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is deceptively silent on the accusation, as expected in a poisoned milieu of ‘cow republic’ imposed by whom the late I K Shukla called as ‘saffro-Nazis’. 

But, admitted by Sara Sultan, the incident does not mean an “armed conflict between two organised armies”. Yet, citing that the IAF bombarded a school (a madrassa) she raised the unanswered ‘question of legitimacy in International Humanitarian Law.’ But the US-based Indian author Pankaj Mishra accused Modi of laying provocation for an armed conflict with Pakistan with a hidden but narrow electoral aim albeit short-term. In an essay, carried by the Bloomberg News Agency, he wrote, “Modi’s militant nationalism, loudly amplified by Indian television anchors, isn’t the only flammable element in a volatile situation. India’s burgeoning military-intellectual complex also deserves the world’s close and skeptical scrutiny”. He lashed out at the unholy community -‘strategic community’, defined by the Brookings- comprising “superannuated and clearly bored generals and titillating hyper-patriotic television anchors’ carrying on jingoism that ‘exceeds the capacity of the Indian military, which, an internal report recently revealed, is encumbered with ‘vintage’ equipment.” Mishra rightly identified a ‘Hindu nationalist consensus’ behind all this as there is a visible impress of ‘dictating the terms of engagement with its rival — a triumphalism shattered the very next day when Pakistan raised its own threshold for conflict with India by striking within Indian territory and bringing down an Indian warplane’.

There is no denying that questions arise on the rationale of the retaliation that triggered clashes between the Indian Air Force and the Pakistan Air Force among skeptics who once earned praise as military higher-ups who remain deliberately unnoticed by the ‘strategic community’. Former editor of the Indian Express group Shekhar Gupta, who can’t be accused of having been pro-Congress, in an article in Hindustan Times ( warned the IAF in a veiled manner. “In the Rajouri-Mendhar sector air skirmish a day after the Indian Air Forces’ (IAF) successful Balakot strikes, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was able to create surprise and local superiority — technological and numerical — in a chosen battlefield. It struck in daylight when least expected, and perfectly timed to attack the changeover of IAF AWAC patrols. The outnumbered IAF pilots (12 aircraft of three vastly different types), scrambled from various bases, and showed the presence of mind not to walk into the ambush set for them, but they failed to deliver a deterrent punishment on PAF”. Signs of misadventure were manifest.

Apr 1, 2019

Sankar Ray [email protected]

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