The real politics behind India cancelling talks with Pakistan twice in a year
There is no doubt about the fact that a well-planned policy is behind the cancellation of the India-Pakistan talks twice within one year on the same issue. It has nothing to do with peace at the border but politics at home.
Narendra Modi initiated a mandate in 2014, but within one and half years, the sheen of his governance has started coming off. There is nothing on his plate to show that during his regime, the economy would take a radical upward shift, a promise which he made to the electorate before becoming the premier.
He managed to win a large chunk of the rising Indian middle classes, with the assurance that he would arrest the economic decline and lead India into a developmental trajectory. Again, nothing of that sort has happened so far. Even his corporate backers are getting disenchanted with his lacklustre performance.
He has lacked in other sectors as well. The Modi regime has sold off the education policy to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the patron of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The hardcore Hindu organisation has been busy in the popular jargon called saffronisation or Hinduisation or communalisation of education. Majority have been appointed in important educational bodies, not on merit but on the basis of loyalty to the RSS.
On the social front, there has been a great upsurge of religious tensions in different parts of the country, and religious minorities have never felt this insecure in the country before. The government’s religious bias reflects quite clearly in its action against the social activist, Teesta Setalvad, who has taken up the issue of the victims in Gujarat riots of 2002, in which hundreds of Muslims were massacred, under the very nose of Modi who was the chief minister of the state at the time. A senior police officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, who came forward as a witness against Modi in the Gujarat riot case, was also suspended from his job recently.
The corruption cases against senior BJP leaders and Modi’s silence on such issues has further dented the premier’s image. The BJP government is just a one-man show, and it sustains and survives on the image of Modi. The developments in the last one year has exposed the facade that goes with the regime and has raised a big question mark over the premier’s capability to deliver on the promises he made to the electorates in 2014 elections.
Pakistan-punching has been an old political tactic and the BJP whipped up hysteria in the run up to the elections last year on New Delhi’s inability to take on Islamabad on the issue of terrorism.
Modi promised to take action against Pakistan if the cross-border terror and violation at the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir does not end. His hardcore Hindu supporters expect him to deliver on his words.
Critics thought that the BJP leader is aiming for a major image makeover when Nawaz Sharif was sent an invitation to attend the inauguration of his government in May 2014. But liberal political posturing doesn’t match with the persona of the right-wing Hindu leader.
Naturally, cross sections of the society has become disappointed with the performance of the ruling regime in Delhi. The government believes that by pointing fingers on Pakistan, it can salvage the sagging image of Modi.
Otherwise, how will you justify the cancellation of peace talks twice in a year on the same issue?
If he was serious about peace and wanted to end terror in the subcontinent, he would coordinate with Pakistan to address this issue. For the greater good, a leader would ignore minor irritants.
Had Obama been rigid regarding Iran’s nuclear programme, he would not have made any progress with Tehran. The best way to control Middle East and contain the Shia republic’s nuclear ambition is by engaging them in talks.
How does India benefit by following a very rigid hard-line policy against Pakistan?
By inciting mindless jingoism and irrational passion, we are rendering great disservice to the nation, rather than protecting ourselves from terror.
Pakistan is witness to the fact that persistent jingoism, in the name of Kashmir and threat from India has radicalised a large section of the population over the years.
The Modi regime’s ultimate aim is to keep the passion alive on the issue of Kashmir and cross-border terror, as well as silence the liberal voices from the country. The voice that you hear and the voices that get more space in the media are those who shout louder, who subscribe to mindless jingoism. Majoritarian politics is receiving a stamp of approval from the larger media houses and mushrooming think-tanks in India.
As a result, no further attempts are made to debate on the issue of Kashmir and why the cauldron there has been boiling for decades. People are made to believe that the problem in the valley is created by Pakistan and the people of Kashmir do not have any issue with India.
There is no open discussion on the need of dialogue with Pakistan and the importance to have an open engagement with the western neighbour. We like to live in the myth of our own greatness. The result of such a thought process is the radicalisation of the society. A Hindu right-wing government thrives on the support of such radicals, who hold hatred for liberal values, bemoan secularism and decry the country’s syncretic culture.
For BJP, therefore, Pakistan’s meeting with the Hurriyat was just an excuse to drum up the domestic constituency. A crucial election in the eastern state of Bihar is due soon. The verdict in the provincial elections is crucial to sustain Modi’s narrative and oversized image. By cancelling the talks, he is trying to consolidate his own core constituency.
However, by doing so, New Delhi is undermining the peace constituency in both sides of the border.
It is naive to believe that BJP is redefining its foreign policy vis-a-vis Pakistan. Modi is just consolidating his image of a hardcore Hindu leader. He is just converting the country into a majoritarian state.
Majoritarianism is more dangerous than terrorism. We should not make a mistake of confusing India with Hindu.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.