Entertaining and provocative, yes. So are many racist jokes
The War Nerd, writing for the eXile, a Moscow-based alternative newspaper gives his opinion on the 1999 Kargil war between India and Pakistan (via Sepia Mutiny). His account of the military aspect of the war is mostly right. His account of almost everything else is mostly wrong.
First, the undertone of moral equivalence between the aggressor and the defenders. He argues that India and Pakistan fought that battle on those remote Himalayan peaks because they knew it would’nt escalate into full blown war. Well, even if that is so, what it is necessary to point out is that it was not India that chose to fight, and fight in Kargil. In 1982, Britain fought a war in the Falklands, half-way around the globe, because the Argentinians attacked them there, and not because the Falklands is a godforsaken group of islands out in the sea somewhere. Without going into whether Kargil (or the Falklands) were ‘strategic’, it is rather clear that it is not only subcontinental-types that go to war over ‘less-valuable pieces of real estate’.
Then the War Nerd holds forth on what an excellent opportunity it was for India to stir up nationalism and hold the country together. How better to unite a diverse country of a billion people and a thousand tongues than to point an outraged finger at the enemy across the border? The Kargil war did bring about an outpouring of nationalism among Indians at home and abroad. So did the earthquake in Gujarat, so did the tsunami in Tamil Nadu. See! You don’t need a belligerent nuclear-armed dictator next door to bring Indians together.
Respect for dead Indian soldiers is easily trivialised: because of some web page designer’s lack of command over the nuances of English usage; because of unsubstantiated allegations of propaganda carried out by the the India media; because of trying too hard to receive deep intellect from Bollywood starlets. Speaking of which, Bollywood may have made ‘patriotic’ movies about Kargil — but unlike its counterpart in Hollywood, it can’t be accused of rewriting history and claiming credit for other people’s feats. And what about Bollywood’s most recent trend of ‘love-thy-neighbour’ movies — when was the last time Hollywood produced a movie showing good Soviets?
Body bags and military funerals are solemn affairs in the West, but dismissible propaganda when it comes to Indian soldiers killed in a war not of their leader’s choosing, but one that was imposed on them by an hostile enemy.
And that’s where losing 400 men in a high-profile, harmless little war like Kargil comes in handy…When you consider how many Indians die every day, with nobody giving a damn at all, it’s pretty amazing that these 400 dead guys get so much adoring press.
When you look at the list of names, you see why. Some of the names are obviously Sikhs (Sikhs love armies), but there are plenty of Hindu names, Muslim names — for all I know there are Zoroastrian names in there too. It’s a chance to sob together over those dead integrated units… And naturally the most harmless ethnic sidekick in the platoon gets killed and everybody cries, and feels patriotic. I haven’t even seen the Bollywood movie they made out of Kargil but I’m willing to bet it has a scene like that in it.
By losing 400 men up there where there are no mosques, Hindu temples, Untouchables or sacred cows, India got a huge nation-building boost at zero cost — a strategic victory out of a minor skirmish.[the eXile]
That comment is most revealing — surely, there is something different in being killed while voluntarily protecting other people’s homes that deserves the appreciation of those for whom they did it? For the the War Nerd, respecting those who sacrificed their lives in the service of their nation is either a luxury for rich nations alone or worse, totally pointless. Besides, how can a war that easily claimed several hundred lives be termed harmless? Several hundred soldiers killed, several aircraft lost — zero cost?