Sarhad par bahot tanaav hai kya? Kuchh pata karo, chunaav hai kya? (The border is brimming with tension. Find out if there is an election.) Rahat Indori’s verse deserves scrutiny, even if wars don’t impress Indian voters. Yet Rahat’s lines will nudge growing sceptics befuddled by a contested cross-border raid. Of course, they risk censure.
When Michael Moore made Fahrenheit 9/11, a compelling film questioning the official narrative about the destruction of the World Trade Centre, he was not trolled as an anti-national or an agent of terrorists. He won applause and some fair criticism for presenting an interesting thesis, and it was up to the viewers to accept his version of the truth or reject it. Let an Indian or a Pakistani try questioning their establishments on a war mission without being trolled or threatened.
The difference is one of a confident bourgeoisie, which is sure-footed about its seemingly unending winning streak, and of its fail-proof perfidy where needed. It can eavesdrop on foreign leaders and plunder resource-rich countries at will, but the moment it tries tricks with its own people, there can be hell to pay.
The South Asian arch-rivals on the other hand betray their feudal, trader, crony capitalist, authoritarian proclivity, uncertain and insecure of a rentier future. They plunder and double-guess their own people in the national interest.
When the terrorists seek to contrive a war, would it not be prudent to see the trap?
The country has been flapping its fins to sail out into the ocean blue as an eager entrant at the Pacific armada anchoring around an anti-China strategy. It is force of habit that India finds itself dragged back into the baby pool of local, avoidable acrimonies.
Sample one such acrimony. Saarc has isolated Pakistan, Indian headlines scream. Saarc was created to encircle India, actually, according to its first host in Dhaka in 1985 Gen Mohammad Ershad. “We were allergic to India. So we decided to come together to deal with it,” he told me in 1997. The old allergens may have mutated, and what set out as an anti-India outfit is now willing to work with India as a new partner. That’s good news all round.
Granted too that Pakistan must pull up its socks with homegrown terrorism to make Saarc a more viable proposition. That’s a fair argument, but in isolating Pakistan has India succeeded at all, barring the headlines? What were Russian troops doing in a politically isolated country? And China? And the OIC, among many such? The latter raised the Kashmir issue with unusual focus over the ongoing killings there. And Kashmir? Who is more isolated with the people in the Valley?
It’s a given for both countries that neither can underrate the threat of religious terrorism. But when the terrorists seek to contrive a war, would it not be prudent to see the trap?
Pakistan on the other hand dreams of being a strategic pivot that regulates Central Asia and beyond. It can’t even cross the Afghan road block, the one it had set up to stall its main quarry.
Truth we all know is the first casualty of war. A saying by Joseph Goebbels could apply to our own nationalists. “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.” It’s why George Perkovich, asked about an antidote to xenophobia, said: “Unplug the TV.”
It has worked for me, and it can be a priceless tonic to restore your peace of mind, to see the unfolding drama with relative equanimity. Read the newspaper instead. It doesn’t scream inanities. And if you disagree with the editorial you can always use it to pack fish and chips or to potty-train your dog.
I am actually happy that the Modi government has claimed a chest-thumping victory against terrorism through a resolve that only a macho leader could have carried out. I am happy that he is happy. But I am also happy that the Pakistani army has concluded that it is in no one’s interest to escalate the current crisis. Is peace nigh?
This is where Rahat Indori’s verse should be scoured for a clue. If the LoC strike did take place to control terror, it hasn’t stopped another army camp being attacked. If the main interest was political profit, that too looks distinctly elusive. The Indian military spokesman said there was no plan to conduct another operation, not as a promise but as a hope. There are questions whether there was a strike at all, and Pakistanis are not the only sceptics. The UN missed this invisible outing. UNMOGIP, the UN monitoring group, said it had “not directly observed any firing across the LoC related to the latest incidents.”
Either its men were sleeping at the wheels or they are better aware of the facts than most of us.
Three polls are round the corner, crucial for Mr Modi to set himself up as a confident candidate for a second inning in 2019.
According to a recent count in Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party was primed to lead the pack. In Goa too, AAP is seen to be winning or at least leading. In Uttar Pradesh, former chief minister Mayawati has surged ahead of everyone with the Congress as its likely junior partner. Intriguingly, a communal riot in the state could consolidate Muslims behind her. No wonder Mr Modi has found a new love for them, calling Muslims his brothers and so on.
If he is politically astute, he might try befriending Pakistan effectively instead of ineffectively trying to isolate it. Reason? Atal Behari Vajpayee mobilised troops in 2002 after the attack on the Indian parliament and lost the election in 2004. Manmohan Singh did nothing (overtly) after the Mumbai terror attack of 2008. He won a totally unexpected second term in 2009. But Modi is not a great student of history. That is his Achilles heel.