a vote trapping strategy in India

Sadly speaking, a series of events following the terror attack on February 14, in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, point to the fact that the Prime Minister of India Narendra Damodardas Modi is proving to be far more dangerous to the country, that its long standing enemy, and bordering state, Pakistan can ever be. While Pakistan’s asymmetrical war on India through terror in Kashmir continues after the 1971 war, the damages are limited to the state, while Modi’s mis-governance and mis-handling of events before and after the dreaded attack, which resulted in the deaths of 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans, had almost plunged the country into war with Pakistan last week, besides triggering off possibilities of  large scale violence internally as well.

A shoddily edited video tape, surfacing less than an hour, after the terror attack in Pulwama, supposedly released by JeM staking claim on the attack, and a past shared history with Pakistan, was all there was to launch the Indian air attack on Pakistan, on February 26, despite the Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan, claiming that they had no hand in it. In an address to the nation, three days after the attack, he stated that both the countries had suffered from terror attacks and need to look for a joint solution. Though he asked for a report on the attack, the Indian government sent one only after launching its air attack, beyond the Line of Control (LOC) in Pakistan, and after Pakistan’s retaliation the next day on February 27.

From the incidents in the last few days, it can be safely concluded that the Indian prime minister Modi, had no intentions of war and wanted to be merely seen as a strong, muscular leader, the kind of leader that the country needed, post the 2019 elections. The intended attack, to win brownie points before the elections, was limited to sending jets into the Pakistan territory, with no intended casualties, and no attack on military establishment. The Pakistan immediate retaliation therefore came as a surprise and paid put to Modi’s pre-election entertainment package for the country.

The joy and jingoism unleashed by the media, claiming the deaths of 300 JeM terrorists, including the brother of the JeM chief, Azhar Masood, however ended within a few hours when international media pointed out that the fighter jets had merely bombed a deserted JeM hideout. Besides a few trees and an injured villager there was no other casualties, certainly nowhere near the 300 figure touted by the Indian media and the ministers of the ruling party.

The Indian prime minister’s extensive smiles at public functions following the Indian attack, soon turned into stony silence after the capture of the Indian pilot, Abhinanadan Varthaman, with neither the defence minister Nirmala Seetharamanan, or the home minister Rajnath Singh facing the public, reducing the entire military exercise into a farce. In a shocking display of nonchalance, no one has been held responsible either for the Pulwama attacks, or the failed military exercise. On the other hand, after the 2006 Mumbai terror attacks, not only had the central home minister resigned, but the Maharashtra chief minister, deputy chief minister and the state home minister had resigned. This following Modi’s demands as the chief minister of Gujarat, that the then prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh resign too. Peace too had returned to the valley, from 2006 to about 2012, following UPA government’s renewed political efforts to renew normalcy there.

While the chances of war between the two countries threatened by Pakistan’s retaliation, has subsided for now, with big brother USA watching, the internal damages to the country still needs to be assessed. Ever since the present Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) came into power, the lines of demarcation between the identity of the prime minister and the country, have sought to be dimmed and now after the attacks in Pulwama, the lines are being sought to be erased between the defence forces and the prime minister as well.  While earlier criticising the prime minister earned one the tag of an anti-national, now questioning the prime minister is being seen as a lack of trust in the defence forces as well. So aggressive has been this sentiment that the entire opposition parties was reduced to towing the line of standing with the prime minister in the hour of grief after the terror, and standing by whatever decision he took to teach Pakistan a lesson.

Since the Pulwama attacks, Modi’s every action and word is proving to be detrimental to peace in South Asia, whereas his counterpart in Pakistan, Imran Khan is making all the right moves, for not only saying no to war, but also substantiating it with the release of the captured Indian pilot Abhinanadan. As a result of the contrasting leadership, the situation at the moment, in both the countries, seemingly poised on the precipice of war, seems completely different. As if to echo the well established belief that leadership matters, a large section of Pakistanis stand with their leader in echoing demands for peace, while most Indians are echoing the sentiments of their prime minister, in favour of war which was subdued only after the pilot’s capture. The few voices which continued to croak demanding escalation even after his release, was finally subdued over the weekend.

Though the threat of war has subsided for now, several questions following the cross border adventurism remains. Not only was the complete lack of remorse and mourning in BJP ranks, including the prime minister was rankling, even as they continued with their election rallies, after the attack, the situation was further aggravated when no attempt was made to stop attacks against Kashmiris, alienating the state further. With no clear political policy to handle the Kashmir issue, excessive use of only the military policy will only have a rebounding effect in Kashmir, further reducing chances of peace returning to the valley.

The recent resolution passed by the 57 member strong Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) states, at a conference in Abu Dhabi , declaring India as a “Terrorist” state, for the first time ever, after being invited as a special guest, hardly augurs well for India’s foreign policy.

The Modi government in Gujarat had no answers for the 2002 Gujarat riots, which killed over 2000 and injured over 2500, most of them Muslims, including one of BJP’s own ministers Ehsan Jaffri. And there is no surprise therefore that the Modi government in the centre, is yet to conduct investigations into the suicide bomb attack, raising doubts whether the suicide attack was engineered to gain leverage in the forthcoming elections.

After 12 days of silence, after the terror attack, letting television studious turn into war rooms, India finally sent two of its jets well into Pakistan territory, in a night attack, which was revealed by the Pakistan defence spokesperson in a tweet, next morning.

Immediately television studios jumped in hailing Modi’s strength, by putting bad boy Pakistan in its place.

The joy and jingoism in the country was shortlived when pressurised into action, Pakistan launched its own own jet, a suspected F!6, on February 27 to bring down one of India’s fighter plane MIG-21, and capturing one fighter pilot Abhinandan.

Riding high on the soldiers of the Indian Air Force, while it was largely believed that Modi had the 2019 elections in his pockets, with war cries raging on, the capture of the Indian pilot, brought the focus back to the damages of war. And soon cries of peace on both sides, completely drowned the voices of war on both sides.