Indian elections: Give peace a chance, don’t vote for Modi

Published: October 4, 2013
Email

What must be realised, is that Pakistan is not Gujarat, Ahmedabad or Babri Masjid- and if push comes to shove, it will do what it has to do to protect itself as well from any threat. PHOTO: REUTERS

“Mr Prime Minister, the country wants to know – what is your priority? Is it national pride and respecting the blood of martyrs or is it to show eagerness to talk to Pakistan under pressure from other countries?” 

This is how Narendra Modi addressed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a rather patriotic (or jingoistic) bid demanding to know his priorities. With such pressure from the opposition, Manmohan Singh has quite clearly shown reservations in resuming talks with Pakistan. Modi went on to state,

“I want to ask you one question, when our soldiers and innocent citizens are being killed day and night; terrorists keep troubling us, killing our innocent people, in such a scenario is it not a hasty decision by central government to hold talks with Pakistani leaders.”

Welcome to our world – the daily life of a Pakistani revolves around terrorism, too Modi. I could spout conspiratorial rhetoric, claiming India is involved in the conflict in Balochistan and atrocities in Kashmir. However, I will not.

Let us be warned here, mixing patriotism with politics can be catastrophic. America and its mindless wars are ample evidence of this fact. With electoral madness taking over India, it is no surprise that patriotism is being used as a tool by many politicians. This, however, is dangerous and may obfuscate the long term significance of Pak-India ties through playing up short term misfortunes.

Surely the Indian people are smart enough to view jingoistic statements without the prism of patriotism blocking their view, and will be able to make decisions that will benefit India and will give the prospect of peace in the region a chance as well.

Nobody wants war.

With India’s general elections around the corner, predictions have already started rolling in that Narendra Modi is one of the most prominent candidates. A recent blog published in The Express Tribune gave a detailed biography of Modi all the way from his younger years as a ‘tea boy’ called Namo to his alleged marriage and chief ministerial regime in Gujarat.

The blog post praised his ability as a political maverick, able to out manoeuvre his political opponents. I, however, believe there is no real neutral platform from which to view Modi, especially since he assumes an anti-Pakistan stance and most probably, anti-Muslim as well.

Modi, for whatever reasons, seems to have gotten the short end of the stick with regards to a lack of faith from the Indian Muslim community. As per my guess, the Gujarat riots and the Ahmedabad massacre may have something to do with this, among other things

Then again, India’s internal affairs are none of our business. In the same way, Pakistan’s internal affairs should be of no concern to India either. They should have no affect on peace talks between the two countries.

Modi’s recent statement against the two prime ministers meeting only exemplifies what the future, under his regime, may look like for the region.

Historically, it can be seen that Pakistan under Nawaz Sharif has made many efforts in resuming peace-talks with India. He has advocated at multiple times to increase cross-border relations between the two rival nations, and citizens here maintain that Pak-India relations, if amicable, would help people in India, Pakistan, Kashmir and to some extent even Afghanistan. To maintain peace in the subcontinent and the entire South Asian region, it is important to establish better, if not great, geopolitical relations with India, and we have taken all the necessary steps to pursue this prospect.

For Modi, however, making statements such as the ones below do not help the cause of any of its neighbouring countries.

“Pakistan captures a large number of fishermen off Gujarat coast and keeps them in jail for six months to one year. They torture them. This tradition is now being followed by Sri Lanka. The problem is not in the seas but with the centre (within India).”

“The main reason for such a scenario is that neighboring countries take India for granted. It is the main cause of all these problems.”

India is not the only victim.

Unfortunately, Pakistan has seen a high rise in terrorist activity within the country which, in my opinion, is a result of the imbalance in the geopolitical scenario within the entire continent. The so-called War on Terror, the politically-correct, yet diplomatically linear involvement of the United Nations, the ego-battle between India and Pakistan, and political discontent in the country are all factors that have contributed to the disgruntled state this region is in.

However, pointing fingers and playing the blame-game, that we have been doing for decades now, really cannot continue. The scenario really is simple – if peace is required in this region, India and Pakistan, have to do it themselves. It has been over 65 years since the Kashmir issue, and the United Nations continues to dilly-dally.

Egos have to be put aside and baseless statements such as ‘Pakistan breeds terrorists’ or ‘India is involved in Balochistan’ have to go. Unfortunately, at this point, it seems that the efforts being brought about are unilateral, with India still stuck in a rut against Pakistan.

In my opinion, after being targeted repeatedly by Modi, Manmohan Singh succumbed to the pressure and made a statement at the United Nations meeting, warning Pakistan to refrain from becoming the ‘epicentre of terrorism’. As premier of a democratic nation, this statement was made in bad taste.

It is deeply disconcerting to see that Pakistan is played around with as a pawn on a chess board by Indian politicians. During Nawaz Sharif’s previous premiership, relations between the two countries spiralled out of control due to unannounced interference in Kargil by General Pervez Musharraf.

Understandably, peace-talks were halted and soldiers were deployed at the borders. However, in later times, around 2005, Mr Singh invited General Musharraf to the country for a cricket match, in which it was decided that peace-talks between the nations were ‘irreversible’; only to be reversed, yet again, after the Mumbai attacks.

Having taken on peace-talks with the same person who was the cause for conflict earlier just goes to show that India was ready to move on and so was Pakistan. However, this also goes to show that India can disregard previous ‘indiscretions’ at their convenience and bring them to the foreground as and when they please.

The past is something that cannot be changed, all we can do now is move forward and it is for India now to decide whether it really is an advocate of peace, as it has maintained in the past, or not.

It is unfortunate that Manmohan Singh’s regime is now coming to an end, as I believe that his determination with respect to maintaining peace with Pakistan is still more honest than what seems to be coming next.

Defensive strategies, such as those suggested by Modi and in recent times Singh maintaining that they are ready to use force to ensure stability, will neither help the universal cause of peace, nor will it benefit the world to watch these two highly immature siblings pull at each other’s hair in a battle of whose horse is bigger. The world, including India and Pakistan, is well aware of the military capabilities each of these countries posses. There is no point in arm-wrestling it out to show the world who outdid who and resorting to reduce absolute idiocy that may spark, what might lead inadvertently to, the third world war.

Modi’s stance plays a significant persuasive role in determining the future for Indo-Pak relations. What must be realised, however, is that Pakistan is not Gujarat, Ahmedabad or Babri Masjid– and if push comes to shove, it will do what it has to do to protect itself as well from any threat.

However, is that really what we want? Another war?

There are too many nations involved in our relationship now and this war will be one that involves everyone. War is not the answer, the people of both countries realise that — it is time the politicians do too.

I just hope that during these elections, the Indian population does what’s best for India and more importantly the world at large. Your decision will affect the world, don’t forget that. There is enough terror, and peace seems to have an ‘exclusive membership only’ policy. We have the ability to be great together – let’s not jeopardise our chances before the process is even started.

Give peace a chance. Don’t vote for Modi.

erum.shaikh

Erum Shaikh

The writer is a News Editor at The Express Tribune and has an Undergraduate Degree in Law from the University of London. She tweets @shaikherum (twitter.com/shaikherum)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.