New Delhi: There is a fancy theory going around in US government circles. This writer calls it fancy because he does not believe in its truth. The theory is this. India has time between the lame-duck presidency of Barack Obama from the present to when his successor is inaugurated on 20 January of the following year to carry out its counterterrorism missions against Pakistan. Once the new United States’ President assumes office, restraints will kick in on India on its military ventures against Pakistani jihadists.

That is a very narrow reading of the situation, according to this writer, and it gives the United States more heft in dealing with India’s problems with Pakistan than it actually possesses. Almost all Indian Prime Ministers have drawn the line on US advice and intervention since Pakistani terrorism became a regular feature of Pakistan’s state policy. With the surgical strikes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone still further than his predecessors in office. He is unlikely to back down under US pressure and will almost certainly draw adverse public opinion if he does. At the same time, he is not riding a tiger because public opinion has matured to understand that containing Pakistan is a long-drawn affair.

While the surgical strikes have brought focus to the military dimensions of containing Pakistani terrorism, they constitute, nevertheless, a small portion of the vast strategy that is required for a lasting solution to the menace called Pakistan. It is apparent that the government is of the same opinion. It has strenuously contributed to normalizing domestic politics after the strikes, and the Prime Minister himself has returned to his most favoured themes of poverty removal, growth and development. The US election cycle is absolutely disconnected from India’s policy approach to Pakistan.

Indeed, Obama’s successor would find Modi’s India inflexibly determined to extirpate Pakistani terrorism. Modi’s defining personality, to an outsider like this writer, is that he does not approach a problem with solutions until he has exhausted the problem with intensive personal study. This thoroughness of personal study, quite un-Indian to be honest, rules out impossible tactics and strategies and focuses on the most possible and best solutions. This personal study combines both theory and practise, and it gains considerably from Modi’s real-world experience as Prime Minister since mid-2014.

In other words, there is very little that Prime Minister Modi could be surprised with on the subject of Pakistan and its principal partner, China. It cannot be the case that his strategies for Pakistan and China are entirely in place. Geopolitics evolves minute to minute. What is certain today may not be so a week later. To make long-term plans in an ever-changing world is hazardous business, but Modi has proved by his own political rise from comparative obscurity that he is rather good at managing flux. It would be plain wrong to think that the absence of any real government in the United States is particularly advantageous to India against Pakistan and that the window of opportunity would close before long. Indeed, NATO moves in Northern Europe against Russia show that military decision-making in the United States is very much alive and undiminished by the most horrible election campaign in recent US history. As there is a general bipartisan feeling against Russia, there is a general bipartisan warmth for India in America. Analysts may draw their own conclusions from this.

India has learnt the hard way that it stands alone and that it cannot count on friendly states to protect and preserve its unique civilization. All Great Powers become great this way. India cannot be an exception to this rule. It is fortunate that India today has a single party majority government at the Centre and a Prime Minister who combines toughness with moderation and sensibility. Coalition regimes, with the exception of those of P. V. Narasimha Rao and A. B. Vajpayee, have been the ruin of this country. If India has to become a Great Power, it must have a single party majority government at the Centre and a Prime Minister who is not beholden to an extra-constitutional family.

In previous times, the United States could dictate to India.

Those times have gone.

Editor’s Note: While it will be difficult to ban Diwali crackers, noise limits must be drastically lowered from present levels, and an anti-pollution tax must attract all sales. Driving back home to Vasant Kunj in the early morning after Diwali, this writer encountered haze in long stretches when visibility was reduced to a few metres. Drastic measures have to be taken against Diwali pollution, and given the political sensitivities involved, the courts would have to step in.