The deadly flare-up on Kashmir’s frontiers since Friday, the bloodiest in over a year, has taken Indo-Pak belligerence to levels unanticipated in the backdrop of impressions the new dispensation in Delhi had sought to create when sworn in last year. Instructively, the months since have been a long series of what authorities in both countries term as “ceasefire violations,” couching loss of life and livelihood in words reminiscent of a referee’s line call at Wimbledon or the French Open. Collateral damage does have this distinction to figure over champagne, scotch, or high tea in the rarefied orbits leaderships inhabit, but what often goes unreported is whether a dead poor farmer draws the same grimace as a botched forehand by a tennis ace at Roland Garros, and an ill-timed shot at the Lord’s – or as is more appropriate in this case, Sharjah.
A charge often levelled against societies in transition, and justifiably so, irrespective of the nature of their transition, has acquired more truth with respect to those whom they look up to for guidance, presumed as the latter are to be free of the many infirmities ordinary mortals are prone to. Consequently, securing the best of both worlds, or eating one’s cake and having it too – logical inconsistencies that leaderships were thought too wise to entertain – has put the class in the unassailable position to posit questions that rarely find answers – who threw the first stone, or who fired the first shot – and get away with it. Bemused masses can then easily be moulded into shape to suit the demands of the occasion, with a variety of readily available devices like motherland, fatherland, pureland.
Otherwise, even the brutal and cutthroat world of world politics had engineered the diplomatic route, more out of cynical calculations involving material costs of war than concerns for human beings, to sort out differences and re-apportion interests economically and efficiently. Severely challenged on both fronts, the subcontinent’s nations have evidently banked on reserves confirmed to run no risk of supply bottlenecks in long-term planning, vignettes of which were available just a few years ago on one side when bore-wells took centre stage amid prophetic superpower tomes. Hard thinking by strategists since is unlikely to have insisted on lowly cast-iron covers for the deep holes that dragged down unwary children, and recommended instead usages more in keeping with the land’s prestige – silos for nuclear missiles, as the bore-wells would have been found running dry in any case.