Jeopardising security for political ends

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Modi’s grandstanding backfired

Indian PM Narendra Modi, a Hindu bigot, a terrorist and a known anti-Muslim zealot– an epithet he earned after the Gujerat massacre– and regarded as best at grandstanding, tried to employ the same strategy by using the Pulwama attack for the dual purpose of portraying Pakistan as a terrorist state and taking political advantage of the episode in the ensuing Indian elections. Immediately after the attack at Pulwama, the Indian government blamed Pakistan for the attack without any proof and then resorted to whipping up anti-Pakistan feelings and war hysteria, vowing to retaliate. Indian war planes did enter Pakistan and made good their escape on being challenged by the Pakistan Air Force, dropping their payloads. Next day, a similar attempt by the Indian fighter planes left India with a bloody nose when two of the intruding planes were shot down and one pilot was captured.

The Modi government claimed that the first hit at Balakot had destroyed a training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammand and killed 350 terrorists. The India media also went berserk in toeing the lead given by the government and even used old videos to corroborate the Indian claims. But those claims were given a lie by the Pakistani as well as international media, and the satellite images of the place of occurrence, where no traces of any camp were found and no casualty occurred except the felling of some trees and the death of an unfortunate crow. Reuters, AP, BBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post also expressed doubts about the Indian claims.

The grandstanding by Modi surely backfired as saner elements within India and the opposition parties have started questioning the veracity of the claims made by the Indian government. The emerging impression is that the whole thing was stage-managed for political reasons and to improve the chances of the BJP winning the ensuing elections. Arundhati Roy, an Indian national and an internationally acclaimed novelist and human rights activist, in an article in The Huffington Post said, “Tragic as it was, the Pulwama attack came as a perfect political opportunity for Narendra Modi to do what he does best—grandstand. For Modi, who is seeking reelection in polls expected this spring, the confrontation with Pakistan over the militant groups within its borders is a rare political opportunity. Last month, it appeared India’s elections would be fought on terrain unfavorable to Modi, with issues like youth unemployment and rural distress near the top of the agenda.” Referring to the consequences of the failure of Modi’s theatrics she observed, “But things can change in a day. The sheen of false victory faded quickly after Pakistan struck back, shot down a fighter plane and captured a pilot of the Indian Air Force— Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. Once again, the BJP’s see-sawing electoral prospects have begun to look distinctly less rosy.”

Modi decidedly put the lives of more than one billion people of India at risk by provoking Pakistan into confrontation for his narrow political ends. Any miscalculation by the other side could have triggered a nuclear war. However, the Pakistani leadership kept their cool and acted with utmost responsibility by launching a diplomatic offensive to sensitize friendly countries as well as the big powers about the emerging situation and reiterating their commitment to peace. The international community was alarmed by the developing scenario in view of the consequences of war between the two nuclear states. That is why the USA, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey and many other countries got involved in behind-the-scene efforts to de-escalate the situation, with encouraging results.

Modi’s actions not only exposed his sinister motives to his political rivals but against his expectations the Kashmir issue has also been internationalized. The world has been reminded of the fact that Kashmir was a nuclear flash point. The fact is that the communal politics of the Modi government in pursuance of the Hindutva philosophy has turned India into a divided society where minorities feel alienated and threatened by Hindu extremists. The attacks on Kashmiri youth in mainland India are the ugliest manifestation of the jingoism that was fomented in India after the Pulwama attack. Modi’s efforts to convert India into a purely Hindu state are fraught with grave dangers. They will decimate the secular face of India besides triggering more movements for separation, besides reinforcing more than a dozen already existing ones, including Khalistan. Kashmir already stands alienated.

Saner elements within India have started questioning the veracity of the claims made by the Indian government.

Modi’s policies could ultimately trigger a process of disintegration of India. If the USSR, a nuclear power bigger than India, can disintegrate, then why not India which is inhabited by people belonging to different religions and distinct cultures? What can keep such countries together is communal harmony and inclusive policies of the government. The Modi government is unfortunately moving in the opposite direction. I think the people of India will have to think twice whether they want to vote for a reckless and impulsive person like Modi who can jeopardize their lives for political expediencies and is determined to deface the secular countenance of India or the saner elements which stand for secular India, communal harmony and peace with neighbours. They must understand that the economic prosperity of the entire region, not just India and Pakistan, is inextricably linked to peace and security in the region. India and Pakistan are both nuclear powers and therefore cannot afford to indulge in the madness of war with the other, which can be mutually destructive. They need to be ruled by leaders who understand their responsibilities as nuclear states and opt for resolving mutual disputes through peaceful negotiations.

Resolution of disputes through peaceful means can usher in an era of shared economic prosperity in the region benefitting all the countries. Pakistan is pursuing a policy of good relations with all its neighbours, including India, and both the civilian and military leadership of the country have made several peace overtures to India for the resumption of dialogue between the two countries. But unfortunately the Modi government has spurned all those moves.

Kashmir is the cause of conflict between India and Pakistan and it needs to be resolved in the interest of both countries. The ultimate reality is that India cannot keep the people of Kashmir under its subjugation for long. The freedom movement in Kashmir is gaining momentum in spite of ruthless killings by the Indian security forces. The sooner the Indian leaders accept this reality the better.