The Kurukshetra War of the 21st Century
" There is nothing wrong about war", once said Sri Aurobindo. And it is true that throughout the ages, war has been an essential part of man's life on this planet and there have been very few periods in modern history which have not seen strife. The French fought three bloody wars against the Germans in the last 125 years, India has battled five wars in 55 years, four against Pakistan, if you count Kargil, and one against the Chinese.
Of course the horrors of war, the devastation it creates, have been documented enough so that there is no need to delve upon them. In the olden times, it was accepted as a fact of life and very few people protested. Actually, of all the nations in the world, India is the one who handled best the business of war, as Sri Aurobindo points out: "Vedic India allowed for men's inclination to war, but made sure that it never went beyond a certain stage, for only professional armies fought and the majority of the population remained untouched". Indeed, at no time in ancient India, were there great fratricidal wars, like those between the British and the French, or even the Protestants and the Catholics within France itself.
But today, as there is a new awareness of the value of life, both human, animal and vegetal, man often recoils from the terrors of conflicts and its consequences on the human being and its environment. Naturally also, humanity aspires to a more harmonious life, where not only will it not be necessary to kill each other to survive, but also where all human beings would love and respect each other, regardless of their colour, religion and nationality. Thus, particularly in the United States during the Vietnam war, there manifested amongst the youth this longing for "no war, but peace", as symbolized by the famous photo of a young American girl sticking a flower in the barrel of the gun of a national Guard. This antiwar pressure was so great that it took out the wind of the Unites States to fight this bloody conflict in a faraway country. and ultimately it surrendered meekly Vietnam to the Vietcongs. Since then, although there is no more such antiwar movement in the United States, American soldiers seem to have lost their valour and now their wars are fought from the safety of supersonic planes and very rarely on the ground. And as soon as a few American, or French, or English soldiers are killed, the will to fight goes, because of intense media and public pressure on Governments. This is why hijackers and kidnappers have such a field day now: they kill one or two people and whole governments surrender, as seen during the hijack of the Kathmandu-Delhi flight in December 1999. It takes Israelis soldiers to keep on fighting with their own public, press and government behind them, when suicide after suicide bombers kill scores of innocent people every month.
In India too, there has risen a strong, coherent antiwar lobby. Intellectuals such as Arundhadi Roy have brilliantly pleaded for a peaceful and restrained India, powerful but benevolent, who learns not to retaliate, to be merciful and generous towards her smaller neighbours. The spectre of a nuclear war has of course come as a strong argument for the antiwar lobby in India and we have seen in the last two weeks how both foreign correspondents and Indian magazines have used the available data on the horrendous consequences of a nuclear war to put pressure on the Government to back out from a conflict with Pakistan.
At any rate, Indian Governments have not been exceptionally bold militarily. Two factors appear to have inhibited the Indian courage to face adversity when faced with threats: the first is Buddhism, which made out of non-violence a rigid creed; and the second is the Mahatma Gandhi's equally unbending theorem of non-violence, which may have precipitated India's partition. And this is why maybe, under the guise of non-violence and peace, so many Indian intellectuals and politicians have shied away from war since independence, witness Nehru's refusal to heed warnings about China's hostility, which triggered the humiliation of the Indian army in 1962.
But will there be a nuclear war? Musharraf, whatever his obsession about Kashmir, which is basically a revenge for the loss of Eastern Pakistan, now Bangladesh, thanks to India's support, is an intelligent man: he knows that if he does manage to drop one nuclear bomb on Delhi or Bombay, there will no more Pakistan worth the name, as all major Pakistani cities will be wiped off the face of the earth. Islam, who has made of the use of violence a near religious practice, understands the language of violence: see how it kept quiet when America showed its muscle after the 11th September attack, or when the Allies invaded Iraq. Thus Musharaff is doing a nuclear blackmail on the world… which is unfortunately working, as so many nations have evacuated their nationals and so much pressure is brought upon (successfully?) on India by the US and the EC.
If there is a war between Pakistan and India, whatever the politicians say, it will be a war between two brothers, for except for their religion, everything unite Indians and Pakistanis: their colour, ethnic origin, food habits, language... In fact, some Indian Muslim soldiers might have to shoot on some Pakistani cousins, or uncles. Will they pull the trigger when their commander says so? Will not their conscience tell them that it is wrong to shoot on one's brothers? Does not that remind you of something? Did not Arjuna face the same dilemma five thousand years ago in Kurukshetra? Did he not throw his bow on the ground and tell Krishna: "no I will not fight, because war is such a horrible thing and I refuse to kill my bothers".
But what does Krishna tell him: "not only you are not killing the soul, but merely the material body; but also sometimes, when all other means have failed and it is necessary to protect one's borders, wives, children and culture, war can become dharma. And that brings in the final question: is a war against Pakistan justified? Would it be dharma? Well you have to decide for yourself: for nearly twenty years Pakistan has waged a proxy war against India in Punjab, in Kashmir and now more and more in the North-East; it has killed thousands of innocent people, raped women dismembered children, mutilated Indian soldiers in the most horrible manner... Several Indian Prime Ministers have made one-sided attempts at peace, without getting reciprocity from Islamabad.
Indeed, a war between Pakistan and India might be the Kurukshestra of the 21st century, the ultimate war which will set right fifteen hundred years of Islamic terror and both redeem the Hindus' karma of cowardice, as well as the Muslims' karma of bloodshed. This war, if it ever happens, will also pave the way for the reunification of India and Pakistan, by force or by natural means. For the two brothers can fight for a time, but ultimately they have to embrace each other anew, as they are basically one, beyond time and body, as Krishna once told Arjuna.