The Machinery of Images and the (Post-)Modern War

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1776 ... March 3, 2019
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The Machinery of Images and the (Post-)Modern War

Ayyaz Mallick

On 14 February, 20-year-old Adil Ahmed Dar rammed a vehicle fill of explosives into a bus full of reserve police force personnel in Indian Occupied Kashmir. The attack killed over 40 soldiers and was claimed by militant organization Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). The response on the Indian side was predictable. Fueled by the hyper-nationalist and sensationalist private media, the Indian government, along with large swathes of the chattering classes, and key opinion makers from across the spectrum, brayed for "decisive action" against "cross-border terrorism" emanating from Pakistan. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan offered a joint-investigation, but sighting Pakistan’s past record in dealing with such cases, India refused the offer and then stepped up its crackdown in Kashmir.
On the night between February 23 and 24, Indian fighter planes intruded into Pakistani territory over the international border for a "surgical strike" (the first time this has happened since the full-scale war in 1971). While the village of Jaba, the target of the "surgical strike," has a long-standing JeM seminary, Indian planes managed to only frighten some villagers and flatten some trees a kilometer or so away from the alleged "terrorist camp." The Indian media claimed success for "surgical strike 2.0" (another one had also been claimed by the Indian government in 2016), while the next day, Pakistani air force responded with two Indian planes shot down as part of "a befitting response… at a time and place of its own choosing." One of the Indian aircraft crashed in Pakistani territory and the pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was captured alive and only mildly injured, immediately becoming the subject of much fascination on the electronic and social media of Pakistan.

Satisfied with having demonstrated Pakistan’s ability to respond, Pakistani PM Imran Khan reiterated the offer of peace and de-escalation from the brink of a disastrous war between the nuclear-armed powers. On the 28th, as a goodwill gesture, Khan announced in Parliament that Wing Commander Varthaman would be released. The move was welcomed by the heads of India’s three armed forces, and after a bout of backdoor diplomacy from the likes of China and the USA, the threat of a disastrous escalation of conflict seems -- for now -- to be averted. However, the belligerent mood of the Indian media and the Narendra Modi government’s prevarications with regards to further military action (in the context of upcoming general elections), means that things remain uncertain and skirmishes continue to be reported on both sides of the Line of Control in Kashmir.

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