It was all but a hollow war. Though India seemed bent on getting Pakistan on its knees, the international pressure, particularly from the US, put a stop to any hopes of Pakistani retaliation. However, the so-called surgical strikes may have done its job on striking terror in the heart of Pakistan. Maybe Pulwama was the spark that created the tension, but the chants of ultranationalism by BJP leaders makes one skeptical if the forthcoming general elections were the backdrop to the ruling party’s show of strength against a frenemy.
After previous wars and peace efforts, the relationship between the two nations has remained embittered masked by superficial cordiality. For Pakistan, Kashmir is a distracting point when domestic situation is rife with problems, both economic and social.
It has a bone to pick as it feels India robbed Kashmir by forcing its Hindu maharaja to accede without the free will of the people, namely the Muslim majority. Kashmir has been a cauldron of terrorism, even as the Pakistan government is battling is own terrorist groups.
The noted pacifist, Noam Chomsky, gives his take on Kashmir, “The main source of conflict in Kashmir, where India claims to be fighting Islamic terrorism, and Pakistan claims that India is refusing self-determination and has carried out large-scale terrorism itself. All the claims, unfortunately, are basically correct.”
The IAF dropped bombs and there were thunderclaps among BJP supporters. Whatever the opposition says it matters not that some trees were uprooted, for the point is that the strikes sent a message. The Economist noted recently that the army has impoverished Pakistan’s citizens. It says, “Religiosity has bred an extremism that at times has looked like tearing Pakistan apart.” Militants under Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have killed millions. Economically, Pakistan is a basket-case, and the fear is that it will fall on its own sword. India too has been wallowing in the filth of religious jingoism. In fact, both nations cannot afford to go on venturesome bounty hunting. But BJP has been reaping bounty in the political battleground, adding Congress scalps to its fold. See the horse-trading currently going on.
The bombing could deliver votes to BJP as it has made a hero out of Modi. What followed this military move was Modi’s rhetoric that he’s a tough customer and could stop at nothing to maintain the country’s safety. That he went overboard at times and played to the gallery by thundering that for him the nation comes first while for the Opposition, deliberately avoiding naming Congress, the family comes first.
Karl von Clausewitz said, “War is the province of uncertainty, three-fourths of the things on which action in war is based lie hidden in the fog of great or less uncertainty.” To add, it’s said that the first casualty of war is truth. No doubt, truth got a direct hit. The government spun its version and its “echo chambers”, that is pro-BJP TV news channels, got wrapped up in this spin-cycle. In this fog of war, the propaganda from the ruling and Opposition sides was deafening.
These TV channels will do its utmost to bury truth, speak half-truths or spread blatant lies that would benefit the BJP. Though living in Canada, I watch quite regularly the Indian news channels and it surprises me that there are some that are just drum-beaters for the government. In this post-fact era, the erosion of truth is highly visible.
It was demagoguery that brought Narendra Modi to Delhi. Forget the BJP saying it was Modi Magic. And why did he not twitch his magic wand to bring in Acche Din? The well-oiled IT Cell bombarded the social media in such a rapid firepower fashion that the electorate had little time to think and analyze the messages. Lies were spread masquerading as facts. Modi said that he would do everything in his power to save democracy. Laughable, as events have proved otherwise. I fear that another term for Modi could well be the end of democracy as we know it and the rise of authoritarianism. Modi seems consumed by hubris — and hatred for dissenters. The smokescreen over Rafale is slowly being lifted.
So sure is Modi’s Man Friday, Amit Shah, of BJP’s return to power that he went further by predicting that it would ensure a half-decade of BJP rule. Isn’t the BJP crying aloud over Congress’ 60-year rule? Elections are a dicey thing. No one expected Modi to be catapulted to Delhi. In the battle of the ballot, and more so now, nothing can be taken for granted. Too many gathbandhans, besides a mahagathbandhan in the making. Knotty, as well as naughty, issue.
The Congress has already launched its nuclear warhead — Priyanka Gandhi. Her first salvo was cool yet deadly. In contrast to Modi’s hand-waving, eye-brow frowning and face-twitching, Priyanka was grace dignified and chose her words carefully without raising her tone.
The BJP may have dismissed Rahul as a “pappu”, but it would be hard for the BJP backroom boys to come up with a derisive term for Priyanka. As a harbinger, she could lay the pathway for her brother to 7 Race Course Road.
(Eugene Correia is a senior journalist who worked for The Hindu, and The Free Press Journal)