Death by a thousand cuts is so graphic an expression that it hardly needs to be elaborated. For those familiar with gastronomical art, salami tactics too, isn’t too hard to decrypt. The underlying idea in both – neutralizing the enemy without breaking much china – was best formalized by André Beaufre, a French military thinker. Piecemeal Strategy is of course about one thrust at a time; but more importantly, delivered in a manner that the intended victims can live with it – can lump it up, to put it more starkly. Indeed, the Frenchman had no idea that the concept would one day be refined to the extent that in the process the executor would be applauded – at times also by the enemy. It seems someone has learnt this skullduggery from the officialdom who after a precipitous raise in prices, lowers them slightly, and people heave a sigh of relief.
It works every time. All that you have to do is to inflict pain, one dose at a time, allowing the target to get used to it before raising the threshold. Israel has bombed Gaza so often that its allies describe it as “a household affair”. But the praise expressed when the shelling stops is nothing short of rubbing salt in the Palestinian wounds. India may have learnt a thing or two from the Jewish state, but has taken the pain therapy to such sublime depths that even the Pakistanis can be numbed before the next dose is administered.
I have served long years on the LOC that used to be violated as a matter of course. Yes, lives were lost and property damaged – the price one had to pay for an intractable dispute. Post August 2019, it got worse. And therefore any arrangement, like the two armies agreeing to go back to an old truce, which provides relief to the people straddling the Line, must be welcome. However, celebrating it as an achievement, leaving aside as a tipping-point, was not only delusionary but out-rightly foolish.
Some of us have to rationalize the Indian motive – the Biden factor; relentless condemnation of the humanitarian disaster Delhi has wrecked on the people of the Vale; or if it came in tandem with the Indian disengagement on the eastern front. But the mere fact that India has only made a gesture on the periphery and not relaxed its stranglehold on the besieged population, should provide some clue as to their real intent.
After the revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution, a very high-profile Indian group of former judges, retired members of the civil and military elites, and human right activists, gave some very sensible advice on how to address the people’s plight – and conceded that Delhi has disregarded all of it. A former BJP bigwig had already pronounced that India had lost the Kashmiris and could now only retain the territory. So any appeal to a regime not only committed to its declared ideological moorings – Hindutva, Akhand Bharat, and all the rest – but is also a proven practitioner, was futile.
In pursuit of their policy, they have been convinced that our response to whatever draconian measures they might take, would not go beyond cartography, renaming roads, and bombast. And now if we were also to express gratitude to a symbolic ceasefire, besides conveying a very unhelpful message to the Kashmiris, we would ensure that after a pause the Indians will resume inflicting pain both inside the IHK and on the LOC – and with greater intensity. They would know that whenever they reverted to 2020, we will applaud them again.
That’s how they kill rats—by gradually conditioning them to ever increasing heat.