September 27, 2016 8:34:20 am
In a masterstroke of political judo, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out in his thumping speech on Saturday, that Pakistan has failed its people. He laid down the gauntlet for India to fight Pakistan on a front where everyone wins – by challenging them to a race against poverty and unemployment. He also made the critical and important distinction between the mostly innocent people of Pakistan and its monster of an army and state.
If we wish to do justice to the martyrs at Uri, and to the thousands of brave young soldiers that have given their lives for the nation, we must first understand what they died for. Our soldiers did not die defending a vengeful, trigger-happy nation. They died defending our right to create a peaceful, stable, united, prosperous, and respected nation. A nation that can absorb a blow and move steadily forward.
In that respect, we have already had our revenge. Our revenge lies in the 300 million strong middle class we have created, in the hundreds of millions freed from extreme poverty, in our raucous free press, our fiercely independent Supreme Court, the IPL and our dominance of world cricket, the soft power of Yoga and Bollywood, and the global success of our MNCs. Today, we sit at every global table and are a critical part of all global forums (while Pakistan generally finds itself seated solely on the ones on terror).
To use a business analogy – when your career is going well, you are rapidly ascending the corporate ladder, and providing a better life for your family, you do not get into a fist fight with the neighborhood lout who keeps needling you out of jealously. You plow ahead and let your success be the revenge.
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If this week’s news is to be believed, while India debated what constitutes a proportional response, Pakistan’s Army flew fighter jets above its capital, whipping its population into a state of panic. This pretty much encapsulates what India is up against: A belligerent, paranoid army, whose interests are not aligned with those of its people, and whose survival depends on a constant state of panic and fear. Knowing that India cannot be challenged militarily, and protected by their own nuclear weapons, their response has been to try to bleed India through asymmetric warfare – encouraging terrorism on our soil, and trying to keep tensions just high enough to justify their existence (the so called “death by a thousand cuts” policy).
Where previous governments have struggled to respond, Modi has disrupted this status quo, through a string of speeches starting from his Independence Day address.
First, by differentiating between the Pakistani people and the Pakistani military leadership, Modi places India firmly on the moral high ground. Modi’s challenge to Pakistan, in the face of grave provocation, to a war on poverty will resound well in capitals across the world. Further, this will cement the perception of India as a responsible country stuck with an unstable, dangerous neighbour.
Second, Modi has struck a direct blow to the pride of the Pakistani army and government by exposing their total failure in their responsibility to their people. He has a knack for finding the soft underbelly of his opponents and striking there. By trumpeting India’s social and economic successes versus Pakistan’s failures, he has taken the conversation beyond a simple tit-for-tat accounting of people killed. He has widened the game to a field where Pakistan is at a disadvantage.
Critically, in signature style, couched within Modi’s restraint is a very direct threat through his reference to Baluchistan. Pakistan’s supposed Islamic solidarity and championing of the “oppressed Kashmiri” has always been hypocritical. Resource-rich Baluchistan was annexed, against its will, to Pakistan in 1948 and since then a long running independence struggle has ensued. The Pakistani Army and Government have long practiced brutal political repression in this province with accusations being made of mass killings, human rights violations, and targeted rape. Modi’s message to Pakistan is unequivocal – continue to stir up trouble in Kashmir, and we will respond by supporting the freedom fighters in Baluchistan. Trouble in Baluchistan puts the Pakistan Army in the awkward position of condemning the supposed repression of Muslims in Kashmir, while simultaneously repressing Muslims within their own borders. It would sap their popularity and strain their already stretched resources. A loss of Baluchistan (comprising 40 per cent of Pakistan’s land mass) would be devastating.
Finally, Modi has silenced criticism from India’s chicken-hawks – every ready to call for war, without really knowing the huge cost that it entails. His message to them is – we are winning, let us focus of our areas of victory and not be distracted by the inevitable set back. We cannot stop all attacks, but we are strong enough to absorb a few blows and determined enough to strike back in a manner that is most beneficial to us.
I think the nation would do well to support the Prime Minister’s lead. We must not let ourselves be baited into a fight that can only damage us, we must not allow ourselves to blindly hate an entire people, and instead, we should trust this government to respond in a manner befitting our global status.
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