By Arre` bench
War: It’s possibly the most horrific method of inflicting violence upon each other that humans have devised. And yet, after the Indian Air Force strikes in Balakot earlier this week, and Pakistan’s counter-attack yesterday, it felt like both nations were once again perched on the precipice of all-out war. History has – repeatedly – shown us the high cost of war, in lives lost, settlements destroyed, and economic ruin, but history has a sad knack of repeating itself, and we keep returning to drink from this poisoned well time and time again.
Yesterday was the latest example of how easily war hysteria can grip a country. Even as India’s and Pakistan’s leadership finally resorted to diplomatic channels by last evening, with India summoning the Pakistani envoy, the same crowd that had made #PKMKB trend on Twitter earlier in the week were calling for war.
As of now, cooler heads have prevailed – and even at the height of the tension yesterday afternoon, it was heartening to see #SayNoToWar as the top trend on Twitter – but the enthusiasm for something as gory as war was like a storm before the calm, and a patently absurd one at that. Social media, which is where most millennial Indians choose to express themselves, became a virtual battle ground where people could thump their chests, call for the destruction of the enemy, while being at a safe distance from the actual frontline.
Let’s remember that this a generation that has zero clue about war. It was a rare day when even Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, seemed to make sense, when he said neither nation should allow the situation to escalate any further. One wishes those calling for all-out destruction of our neighbours, people whose only exposure to war has been propaganda films, would listen to him.
Let’s remember that this a generation that has zero clue about war.
The reality of a war between India and Pakistan is not a pretty one. Without question, it would set back economic growth and development by years, and lead to many lives lost for soldiers on both sides. And yet, those who can’t shut up about their love for “soldiers at the border” are the first ones to advocate putting them in harm’s way.
All of that is without considering the geopolitical implications it would have across the world, and that isn’t even the last straw. That would be the fact that both India and Pakistan are nuclear-armed countries, and should it come to that desperate measure, it would be quite literally apocalyptic for the people in both nations. This generation of smartphone-wielding jingoists, which has never actually lived through a war and has no idea (or chooses to ignore) what it entails, calling for one smacks of ignorance at best and arrogance at worst.
The closest millennial Indians, who are not in the armed forces and have no skin in the game, have come to experiencing war is a closely fought game of PUBG. Whatever motivates them to think war is desirable, whether it be misplaced nationalism or sheer idiocy, has obviously trumped over their better sense. Even the government is aware of the dreaded consequences of war, which is why it has demanded that Pakistan return the downed IAF pilot in its custody via diplomatic channels, rather than launch a Saving Private Ryan-type mission to rescue him.
The pilot, whose MiG plane crashed while repelling yesterday’s Pakistani incursion into Indian airspace, was captured by Pakistani forces, and is currently their prisoner. And though he appears to be being treated well by the Pakistani Army, his situation became a dire reminder of the price we must pay if we are willing to go to war. When you go to war, you lose your men, either as prisoners to the enemy, or forever, to death.
In all of India’s independent history, it has never been an aggressor nation that starts off a war.
Our notion of what war is hasn’t been shaped by lived experiences (most millennials were still schoolkids when the Kargil conflict took place), but by films like Border and LoC: Kargil, and most recently Uri. In these fanciful depictions, war is valorised and at the end, India always comes out on top. But watching Bollywood stars like Akshaye Khanna or Suniel Shetty give up their lives for the nation on screen doesn’t drive home the cost of war, because we know they’re actors who go home to their millionaire pads at the end of the day. For a more honest portrayal of what war is, it would be better to look at the ruins of Syria, Gaza, and Afghanistan in the Middle East, or at the growing refugee crisis in Europe.
In the aftermath of the Indian pilot being captured, focus has shifted from a hyperbolic quest for revenge, to ensuring the safe return of our pilot, as it should. Hopefully, the episode serves as a reality check, and the people calling for war stop and reassess exactly what it is they’re demanding. The sentiment was summed up this Twitter user who said, “Those who celebrate war will not participate in the war, those who participate in the war, will never celebrate war. #SayNoToWar”
In all of India’s independent history, it has never been an aggressor nation that starts off a war. Why start now?
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