By Tathagata Satpathy
HAVING TAKEN some bold yet highly controversial steps in Kashmir, it was the need of time for the Modi government to lie low and allow tempers to cool down. But, the reverse seems to be happening, if defence minister Rajnath Singh’s statements in relation to Pakistan in recent days are any indication.
Every nation has its sense of pride and dignity to uphold. Provocations of any kind should be avoided from India’s side especially in the aftermath of major steps like changing the status of Kashmir from being a state to that of a Union Territory and abrogation of Article 370. Indians, no matter how nationalist they may have turned in recent times, have to recognize that this is not a nation capable of engaging in long-drawn wars. All the wars that the citizens here have gone through were fought at far off locations like Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan or Arunachal borders. No war closer home has been witnessed by most Indians in the past few centuries.
The recent happenings in the petroleum-rich Middle Eastern Moslem nations should act as eye-openers for us. Rich or well-endowed nations such as Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and even far off Libya stood mute and were destroyed due primarily to one reason — former popular leaders unwittingly taking things easy while radical religious zealots emerged and created situations of civil wars. That attracted foreign forces to get involved and fish in troubled waters. In those Arab countries, the Western powers showed their unquenchable thirst for petroleum, a natural resource. War eventually destroyed and dismantled civil society.
Today, daughters of rich Syrian, Iraqi and Libyan families have been compelled to turn into sex workers in many cities across the world because they have lost everything else. All those rich and powerful people entertained feelings in the past that nothing would touch them. They had assumed that they were safe and that ‘bad times’ will befall only those labelled as ‘anti nationals’ by the rulers of the time. Unfortunately, the rich and the middle class became the biggest victims to torture, extortion and harassment in the form of losing their women as sex slaves. The poor joined the marauding forces as foot-soldiers against the rich or got butchered in large numbers.
We in India have to remember that this has been a repetitive scenario in most civilizations throughout history. India had been spared such ignominy and humiliation because of its ability to absorb and gobble up the ‘enemy’. Now the present-day mind set is to acquire enemies where none exist. Once a society starts creating enemies out of nowhere, the goalpost has to constantly keep changing to keep the pitch high. Today it may be followers of one religion. Tomorrow the scene may change. More than religious irritation, the average Hindoo is noticed to have terrible anger at the object of derision that is closer to home — people of another caste. Once the governance system abets and encourages hatred in any form and against anyone to spill out on to the streets, the nemesis or the end of society is inevitably getting closer.
Returning to the situation in Kashmir, it is yet to settle down to peace. Thousands, as reported by many media, have been arrested and strict restrictions are continuing. This is time for the Centre to take cautious steps forward.
Rajnath Singh first stated that India may review its ‘no first use’ policy with regard to use of nuclear weapons against neighbours if a situation so arose. In return, the Pakistani military brass has held out the threat that if India declared a war, it would not hesitate to use nukes first. Both India and Pakistan had assured the international community when the two nations, simultaneously, joined the world’s nuclear club that they would avoid first use. In effect, with Rajnath’s statement, that old assurance is now dead and defunct. Both sides no more have such a commitment, meaning the security scenario in the geopolitical region is in for serious stock-taking. Especially so, if one considers the fact that Pakistan, per se, is controlled by a bunch of hoodlums engaged in terrorist pursuits. The very basic concept of these terrorists is ‘Jihad’ meaning to die for their beliefs while destroying those who oppose them. Imagine a scenario where a nuclear-armed Pakistan missile hurtles its way into the heart of Ahmedabad or Gandhinagar. There would not only be a devastation and loss of innumerable innocent lives but a huge loss of face for India for centuries to come.
The comments by the defence minister may be seen in the backdrop that most big powers are already in the nuclear club even as the common endeavour is to progressively see the emergence of a nuclear-free world. UN’s efforts in this direction may not have been of much help but no country in the world would support another country creating a nuclear flash point.
Rajnath Singh also went an extra mile by stating that if Pakistan wanted a talk with India on Kashmir, it could be on the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, and not on Kashmir Valley which is now ‘an inalienable part of India’. India has never accepted the existence of PoK. Apart from that, claiming that the Kashmir Valley is ‘now’ an inalienable part of India presupposes that it was not so earlier and that the situation has now been altered. While, undoubtedly, there would be many believers of ‘New India’ who would vehemently thrash this idea, the diplomatic and, more importantly the economic, fallout is serious enough and thought-provoking.
Those who know must be aware that even as PoK remains a disputed territory in diplomatic parlance, India occasionally made references to the allegations of human rights violations there. PoK being a Moslem province, its affinity is with Pakistan. This should enlighten those who want to create their Akhand Bharat that most territories, even if we could annex them, would turn out hostile to India. Holding on to lands where the people don’t want a foreign ruler would bleed the average Indian so very badly that this could turn this country into a ravaged nation.
Let no Indian forget that Pakistan inherited a chaotic political system part governed by elected representatives, part by the military generals and a bigger part by mercenary jihadis steeped in acute religious fundamentalism. Generals can shoot through their hips but jihadis can kill for no reason whatsoever. When the whole world stayed away from supporting Pakistan for its pro-terror image, the message is loud and clear. Taking a positive note of this, Indian ministers will be well-advised to show restraint, rather than making a business out of provoking Pakistan.
Pakistan was hurt by India’s latest actions in Kashmir, and it was also hurt by the failure of its attempt to raise the matter and draw support from the UN. Since a ‘terrorism’ angle is prominent vis-a-vis Kashmir, it was difficult for Pakistan to have its way with the world body. In the end, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan finds himself in a difficult situation. He will have difficulty convincing the people that his government rose to the occasion. Since Pakistan had no way winning international support on Kashmir, it will have to look within to find a way forward. In effect, Imran and his country have been pushed to the wall. This embarrassment for Imran Khan could only turn worse with the kind of statements that our ministers are making. When India managed to have its way with Kashmir and the dust is yet to settle down, the first priority of the Modi government should have been to show patience and complete a work in progress in Kashmir.
A sense of nationalism may be driving Indians at present but when the real crunch comes –not from Pakistan, but from China which is upset because its CPEC designs may be disturbed — we may collapse like a pack of cards. The terrible history of foreign business interests occupying and turning Indians into slaves a la British Raj may, quite possibly, get re-enacted if the people of this nation do not realize that they are truly not one and the same. 

The writer is a former Chief Whip of the Biju Janata Dal in Parliament, and Owner-cum-Editor of Ddiya daily Dharitri and English daily Orissa Post, published from Bhubaneswar and other centres. –IHN-NN
INDIA HERE AND NOW http://www.indiahereandnow.com email:indianow999@gmail.com

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