Lakshman a central character in the very popular Indian mythological epic – ‘The Ramayana’ would never have imagined that a line he drew would become a brand by itself and would draw references day in and day out in modern India. The line named after him as the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ is believed to be the central raison d’être of the epic itself. If Sita had heeded to his advice and not crossed that line when Raavan under disguise came to her for alms, it is believed she would have escaped all the sufferings she had to go through later. So every time the Lakshman Rekha is brought up as a metaphor in the context of crossing one’s limit only to endure misery later.
- “Don’t cross the Lakshman Rekha” exhorted a minister from Madhya Pradesh to women if they want to avoid unwanted consequences
- “Don’t cross the Lakshman Rekha” said even the Supreme Court to journalists in the context of reporting
The context of Lakshman Rekha again dominated public discourse recently when Pakistan killed 2 Indian soldiers and allegedly beheaded and mutilated their bodies and dumped them against established international conventions. Somebody said Pakistan may cross the Lakshman Rekha at its own peril. My piece is basically to focus on drawing the Rekha (line). The reaction in India to the indeed dastardly act by Pakistan has been extremely raucous. In TV channels the radars of the OB vans shifted from the Delhi gang rape incident to this absolutely heinous act. There have been cries for firm and tit-for-tat response to this from media, the opposition and the public by and large. Let’s look at some of them:
- If Pakistan does not return the severed head of the martyred soldier Hemraj, India should get at least 10 heads from the other side said an opposition leader and a potential Prime Minister candidate in that
- Call off all talks with Pakistan and end the dialogue process
- Stop all trade and commerce between India and Pakistan
- All cricketing and sports ties must be severed with immediate effect
- Why is India not carrying out covert action across the LOC (Line of Control) and create trouble on the other side?
- Why is India not getting powers like US to stop aid to Pakistan and put pressure???
In the days following the event we saw TV channels and their wannabe Arnab Goswamis I mean anchors (with few exceptions) getting politicians, journalists, diplomats, so called defence experts and Ex-service men from both sides of the border and engaging in mostly over the top debates on what should be India’s response to this. And as childish it would seem, some of them wanted answers from the Govt. to their questions on the type and nature of response.
The irony is from the discourse it appears that if India calls off the cricketing ties between the two nations or stop Pakistanis from being a part of the annual IPL festival, it would amount to some tough response from India!! From all what I followed, I couldn’t get a sense of exactly what the opposition or the media or the defence experts wanted Government of India to do which will tantamount to a “tough response”.
The question is can governments conduct diplomacy thro OB vans? Even if the “Nation wants to know” can the government’s spokesperson appear in prime time debates and announce that from tomorrow R&AW is going to depute 10 officers for carrying out undercover operations across the border? Can the military representatives come out in the open as to their strategy for countering the shocking acts of Pakistan? Do we expect the MEA spokesperson to outline the different tactics they are going to adopt on the diplomatic front?
Given that the act was indeed barbaric and flouting all humane conventions, it calls for a firm response from our country. However we must have firm faith in our military and leave it to them to deliver that firm response. From that point of view the measured and mature response of our Army Chief among the din is indeed commendable. After all it is his team which has this onerous responsibility of protecting our borders and he has to ensure that his men are high up on morale and motivation.
Most of the shrill noises called for action – which will put India and Pakistan on an even scale. The fact is that it is not. The stark truth is – the India Vs Pakistan issue is not an issue among equals. Just because India and Pakistan are nuclear states doesn’t make them equal. In size, economic strength, military might, political stability we are way above our neighbour and that calls for a response which is restrained, mature and firm.
The ‘Line of Control’ is considered to be the border between India and Pakistan for all practical purposes and both the countries have an underlying understanding to observe restraint across it. So in effect this becomes the Lakshman Rekha for both the countries. However there is a need for a Line of Actual Control for our media, politicians, and commentators when it comes to matters of external security. Where is that Lakshman Rekha and why is it missing?
In the meantime, do enjoy Surendran’s superb cartoon in ‘The Hindu’ on ‘Lakshman Rekha’!!!