Thursday 28 February 2019

Armageddon: On The Brink

By this time tomorrow, we may be at war.

Back in the ancient days of 2013, a year before Narendrabhai Damodardasbhai Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had taken power, I had written a story called Armageddon: The India-Pakistan War Of 2019. In this wholly fictional piece, I had made the following “predictions”:

It is early 2019. Modi’s government is in trouble, mired in a corruption scandal, faced by a uniting opposition, and facing near certain defeat in the coming elections. There is a bomb blast. Modi seizes on the blast as a casus belli to start a war with Pakistan.

Pakistan, faced with annihilation by Indian armoured thrusts through the desert, uses short range tactical nuclear weapons to wipe out Indian divisions. Modi, faced with either withdrawing in defeat or escalating, chooses to escalate with a nuclear strike on the Pakistani city of Multan. Pakistan retaliates by nuking Delhi, both sides start indiscriminately using nuclear weapons on each other, and by the time it’s over, both nations have effectively ceased to exist.

To this day, almost six years later, it remains far and away the most-read thing (if not the most popular) that I have ever written.

That was in August 2013. The years rolled on, as they will. Modi duly took power in the 2014 election (hardly an earthshaking prediction on my part; the incredible incompetence of the preceding Congress government had made it a foregone conclusion). More years passed; and the Modi regime, astonishing to relate, did not cover itself with glory. Not at all!

So here we are in early 2019. The Modi regime is mired in a corruption scandal (several, actually, but the main one is over the purchase of French Rafale fighters for the Indian Air Force, “renegotiated” by Modi with the manufacture of subsystems handed over to his capitalist crony and fellow Gujarati Anilbhai Dhirubhai Ambani, who, as far as I know, has never manufactured an origami paper plane, let alone components for a modern jet fighter). After a string of losses by the BJP in recent state elections, the opposition parties are uniting, and Modi’s prospects in the next election are, to put it mildly, dim.

(If you are wondering at all the names ending with bhai – Narendrabhai Damodardasbhai Modi, Anilbhai Dhirubhai Ambani, Amitbhai Anilchandrabhai Shah, and others – it’s because these vermin are all ethnic Gujaratis, a species hailing from the state of Gujarat in India’s extreme west.. The Narendrabhai Damodardasbhai Modi regime is of, by, and for the benefit of a cabal of Gujaratis, and nobody else.)

And then there was a bomb blast.

This is how it happened.

On the afternoon of 14th February, a huge convoy of 2500 Central Reserve Police Force (it’s an armed police force used as a paramilitary outfit) personnel in 78 lorries, buses, and other vehicles were travelling through Pulwama in Kashmir. According to the official account of what next happened, a suicide car bomb driven by a member of the rebel group Jaish e Mohammadi (JeM) struck one of the buses in the convoy, destroying it utterly and killing 40 CRPF personnel aboard. According to whom you believe, the death toll was higher than that with up to nine more CRPF men in other damaged vehicles dying in the blast or subsequently.

Jaish e Mohammadi is a group with a Pakistani leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, who was in an Indian prison for many years before being released by a previous BJP government after an Indian plane was hijacked to Afghanistan. Since JeM uploaded a video taking responsibility for the incident, India immediately blamed Pakistan itself for the attack. The driver of the car bomb, by the way, was not a Pakistani, but a local Kashmiri teenager named Adil Ahmad Dar; he had been, according to his family, “radicalised” after being beaten up by Indian police or military at a checkpoint. That he was a local Kashmiri, anyway, meant nothing – you don’t just come across military grade explosives and the wherewithal to build a car bomb merely because you decided to become an armed rebel. Not without assistance.

There are many questions about the whole affair, but the most glaring one to my mind is why this gigantic convoy ever meandered its way through the daylight hours in the first instance. Two days before the attack, the Kashmir police had issued a warning that there might be a car bomb attack; something that had only once before happened in Kashmir but which is a routine method used by jihadis of the same ideological bent as JeM in Syria and Iraq. Suicide attacks on convoys, in fact, were so common in the two countries that they have both evolved highly effective countermeasures to tackle them; I find it impossible to understand why this was not done.

Why, for one thing, was this gigantic convoy not broken up into small, fast convoys and made to move at night? The CRPF claimed that the information before them was not “definite” so they could not take adequate precautions. I don’t know if they expected the JeM to issue engraved announcements complete with RSVP of the time and place of the attack, but common sense says that if you have been informed that the enemy will use a particular tactic, you take defensive measures against that tactic, whether you expect to be personally targeted or not. It’s like keeping fire extinguishers around even if you don’t anticipate your house catching fire.

It would be, of course, invidious of me to speculate that the attack was allowed to go ahead in order to further a political agenda, so I won’t. I am absolutely not, therefore, saying that there were no precautions against the attack because someone wanted it to happen. I repeat, I am not saying that. No!

In any case, the Modi regime acted exactly like a drowning man being thrown a rope. It seized on the incident to instantly put all the blame on Pakistan, and simultaneously “cracked down” on nonviolent Indian Kashmiri separatist leaders, withdrawing their security details (which they had not asked for in the first place). The Hindunazi WhatsAppsphere (Hindunazis now use WhatsApp for spreading their poison) filled with demands to attack/boycott/drive out Kashmiris (because, somehow, it was all the fault simultaneously of both Pakistan and Kashmiris; don’t ask me how, I’m not a Hindunazi). Kashmiri students in other parts of India were harassed, evicted from their lodgings, and so on, until the Supreme Court of India had to order their protection, and the CRPF itself had to condemn the attacks on Kashmiris in its name.

Modi, meanwhile, after taking time to go on another foreign trip on taxpayer money (this time to South Korea; this was the 94th country he had visited in five years on the public exchequer), ordered Pakistan to be “isolated”. The pinnacle of this “isolation” was when the murderous dictator of Saudi Barbaria, Mohammad bin Salman, made a high profile visit to Pakistan before coming to India, where Narendrabhai Damodardasbhai Modi was there to hug him at the airport. Not the most effective of “isolations”, it wasn’t.

And with every day that passed, the window of opportunity that Modi had to make use of this casus belli was fading. Also, further clashes between rebels and Indian forces had killed several more Indian troops; far from looking like someone who would “put Pakistan in its place”, the Gujarati Globetrotter was beginning to look vulnerable to jibes about being weak. Something had to be done.

So it was that on the morning of the 26th February, Indian media suddenly announced that Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 planes had flown into Pakistan and “bombed a JeM training camp” killing “300 terrorists”. I heard this fairy tale in the early afternoon, and, not being an imbecile, rejected it immediately.

Some of you know I worked (as a dentist) for the Indian Air Force for five years. During this time I had a ringside view of the antagonisms, frustrations, and outright mendacity of officialdom there. I have, for instance, seen an Amerikastani USAF delegation given free access, complete with cameras, to a section of the Eastern Air Command headquarters off limits even to Indian Air Force officers without special clearance. I have met sergeants and junior warrant officers so desperate to quit and move to better paying jobs in the civilian sector that they were merely going through the motions.

It even extended to history. Back during the last full scale declared war between India and Pakistan, in 1971, according to Indian sources, India had destroyed 94 Pakistani planes while losing 45 of its own. According to Pakistan – and its figures were “confirmed” by the Amerikastani air force general Charles Yeager, who claimed to have visited and tabulated wreckage on the battlefields – the figure was about 30 Pakistani planes to 120 Indian. So when I was at the Air Force’s Eastern Air Command headquarters, I decided to settle the issue. Surely, I thought, one could find some kind of official confirmation for the 45:94 figure, at least?

Well, guess what? I only found total silence. The actual figures seemed to be some kind of state secret. And after that to this day I have learnt to never believe anything told me by any Indian military official. Not that the Pakistanis are any better, of course.

But, when one lies, one should at least have some idea where to draw the line. The “300 terrorists killed” number – which soon inflated to “350” – was absurd. Does JeM even have that many members? Did they all line up obligingly to be bombed? Who counted the corpses?

That the whole affair had nothing to do with terrorism or Kashmir was obvious right away. Modi at once moved to take credit for the bombing; it was at once obvious to everyone that it was going to be his election campaign plank. So obvious was it that 21 opposition parties got together on 27th February and condemned his transparent attempt to make it into a personal vote catching exercise.

In case anyone imagines that it is too cynical to think that Narendrabhai Damodardasbhai Modi would hesitate to start a war just to win an election: no, it is not too cynical. Psychopaths are not very concerned about other people, never have been, and never will be.

All the chest thumping was accompanied by a video of “Indian planes over Islamabad” which turned out to be a years-old video from YouTube of, you guessed it, Pakistani planes over Islamabad. And the Pakistanis then went on to say that while Indian planes had passed over the frontier, they had turned tail and fled back into India after Pakistani air force opposition, and dropped bombs into forest, destroying some trees and wounding one civilian. They also showed the craters caused by the four bombs India claimed to have dropped – and the trees those bombs had destroyed.

Given the disparity between “350 terrorists killed” and “one civilian injured”, it was impossible to reconcile both tales. One or the other side was lying through its teeth. Both sides were known to be habitual liars, but in this case, it was more difficult to believe one.

Can you guess which one?

This led to this ridiculous statement by a former classmate of mine, a Modi-supporting chicken hawk who lives safely in Amerikastan, and my response:

Oh yes, on 27th February Pakistani planes crossed over to this side of the border and dropped bombs on Indian territory. The Pakistanis said they deliberately bombed empty ground to make the point that they could have done damage but chose not to do so. This may or may not be the truth; as I said the Pakistanis are not any greater friends of the truth than Indians are. According to Indian claims, one Pakistani F 16 was shot down by Indian planes over Pakistani territory – no evidence, of course, was provided for this claim.

As for the Pakistani claims? That’s where it got interesting. According to Pakistan, their aircraft had shot down “two Indian planes”, one of which fell over Pakistani territory and the other over Indian territory, and “captured two pilots”, one of whom was “hospitalised”. The Indian Air Force totally denied losing any planes at all...except, oh yes, almost as an afterthought, an Indian helicopter had “crashed” in Kashmir, killing two pilots. Everyone else was accounted for.

This lasted until the afternoon, when Pakistan released a video of a blindfolded man in an Indian flying suit, who identified himself as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. Modi’s paid trolls denounced the video as “fake”, apparently unfamiliar with the fact that YouTube videos are marked with Amerikastani time, not Indian. The Indian Air Force continued to maintain that all its planes and pilots were “accounted for”, even while Varthaman’s own friends and acquaintances confirmed that it was indeed he and that he was a MiG 21 pilot. It was evening before the external affairs ministry of the Indian government finally brought itself to admit that one MiG 21 had been lost in action and the pilot was “missing” – it still did not identify Varthaman by name, let alone admit that the Pakistanis had taken him prisoner.

Later on in the evening, by some unspoken consensus, it was apparently agreed that Varthaman had indeed been shot down and taken prisoner. By then the Pakistanis had changed their story to say only one pilot had been captured. This, of course, was inevitable if they had only shot down one plane on their side of the border, because the plane was a MiG 21 Bison – which is a single seater. And by then another video had begun circulating that showed Varthaman just after capture, being kicked and punched by civilians on the bank of a stream, before he was rescued by Pakistani army troops.

This video had a delicious irony that most people would miss.

According to the claims of those who circulated the video, “Paki (sic) civilians” had been beating Varthaman. But Varthaman came down, not in Pakistan, but Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, which India claims is Indian territory. Therefore those “Pakistani civilians” weren’t Pakistani at all, but Indians. According to whom? According to India. And it was the Pakistani Army which rescued that Indian pilot from those Indian civilians.

Nice, isn’t it?

The last time an Indian pilot was taken prisoner was in 1999, during the Kargil battles, when K Nachiketa was captured after his MiG 27 either crashed after engine failure or after being shot down (depending on whom you believe) over Pakistani lines. Nachiketa was treated well and repatriated even before the end of hostilities, and is still flying planes (albeit transports) for the Indian Air Force today. If Modi chooses not to escalate further, I am as certain as can be that Varthaman would be back within days. But Modi can’t afford to not escalate further; not if he wants to win the election. As I said, it’s all about him.

So the same external affairs ministry of the Gujarati globetrotter’s government has demanded the immediate return of Varthaman, as though it were in a position to demand anything, and as though Pakistan can afford to look weak by giving in. So Varthaman is probably in for a lengthy stay in a Pakistani prison camp, and he can thank Narendrabhai Damodardasbhai Modi for that.

As I write this, this is where things stand:

Normal human beings in both India and Pakistan have taken to the internet demanding peace and a drawdown in hostilities. They are making their voices heard, and they cannot be fully ignored. Nor has Modi’s paid army of trolls and lapdog media managed to paint them as “traitors.” Not so far, anyway.

Modi has painted himself into a corner. He can’t back down without looking weak. He can’t escalate further without risking war. He can’t stay where he is, halfway. According to the latest news, he has “given the military a free hand”. All Indian airspace north of Delhi is closed to civilian air traffic. Pakistan has also closed its airspace.

In my story written back in 2013, Modi planned for a short sharp war lasting a very few days, meaning to declare a quick “victory” before the Pakistanis could fight back meaningfully. Unfortunately, the Pakistanis failed to react as they had been scripted to.

Real life never follows scripts. This time is the same. The Pakistanis were supposed to digest Modi’s “air strike” and let him strut around like a victor. They weren’t supposed to hit back. Whatever will poor Modi do?

Given the impossibility of Modi's backing down and losing the jingoistic vote and the elections, I can see three options.

First, raise the stakes and start an aggressive confrontation with further air strikes and possibly an attempted blockade of Pakistani ports. This would be a very bad idea, because it would entail inevitable losses. A destroyer or two at the bottom of the Arabian Sea would be very, very bad publicity for Narendrabhai Damodardasbhai Modi.

Second, go in for my scenario: a ground campaign with an attack across the border into Pakistan. The Pakistanis have been preparing for this, and they will have their own plans, which might not conveniently suit Indian ones. And Pakistani doctrine does call for using tactical nuclear weapons against Indian attacks.

Third, declare an emergency, silence all dissenters, lock up the opposition parties, and call off the elections. The situation is so horrible right now that this would probably be the least bad option before us.

And, meanwhile, racist Amerikastani and Brutish armchair warriors on such cesspits as are cheering on nuclear war between India and Pakistan, because they want "400 million snake charmers, code coolies, dots and Muzzies" to be killed. You'd think Indians and Pakistanis would by now realise who their real enemies are.

At the top of this article is today's cartoon, for what it's worth. Hopefully it's not the last I'll draw.

If it gets all mushroom cloudy, well, it’s been nice knowing you.