Whatever the Modi regime may do—surgical strikes or heavier response—the export of terror from Pakistan will not cease
One would like to believe Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pledge that the perpetrators of Pulwama outrage “will pay a heavy price,” but for that one has to be excessively optimistic. For neither his government nor that of any predecessor has done anything to suggest that there is any seriousness about overcoming terror in the first place.
At the heart of the problem lies a debilitating mindset—the Nehruvian mindset. It may sound contrary to the general impression
Without naming Pakistan, the Prime Minister recently said that “if our neighbour, which is totally isolated in the world… thinks it can destabilize India through its tactics and conspiracies, then it is making a huge mistake.” But there is no question of ‘if’; it does think, and works on its thinking, that it can destabilize India. The onus is on us to prove that Pakistan’s thinking is wrong; more importantly, to stop it acting on its deeply-held beliefs and convictions.
Unfortunately, we are not acting as we should be. Consider this: it was only after dozens of Central Reserve Police Force men were blown apart that the government deemed it fit to revoke the most favoured nation (MFN) status to Pakistan. And even that would have little effect, for Indo-Pak trade is less than $3 billion. Following this step, India has increased customs duty to 200 per cent on all goods imported from Pakistan. It begs the question: Why now?
Similar questions arise when PM Modi says, “I want to tell the terror groups that you have committed a grave crime. The perpetrators of terror will pay a heavy price. I assure the nation that we will punish the perpetrators of terror.” Why now? Why not earlier?
What kind of revelation enlightened our political masters on February 14 to revoke MFN? Why did they resolve on that day, and not before that, to teach the Pakistan-based jihadists a lesson? After all, Pulwama was not our 9/11 moment; unlike the United States—which rudely woke up on September 11, 2001, to the threat jihad posed to itself and others—we have been suffering at the hands of the terrorists that Pakistan aids and abets. They have massacred our citizens, bombed our cities, attacked our Parliament, and slaughtered our security personnel; it has been going on for decades. And we didn’t even scrap the MFN status, despite the fact that Pakistan didn’t fulfil its international obligation of reciprocating and extending the same status to us for 23 years!
At the heart of the problem lies a debilitating mindset—the Nehruvian mindset. It may sound contrary to the general impression, and given Modi’s antipathy to the first prime minister, but the fact is that he is more Nehruvian than some of his Congress predecessors. Facts are shaped by what we do and not what we profess.
Two cardinal principles of the Nehruvian Consensus were socialism and non-alignment. It is well-known that Modi has done nothing to carry out major economic reforms like structural changes in the farm sector and privatization of public sector banks (PSBs); instead, he has relied on populist, socialist measures like farm loan waivers, price controls, and PSB recapitalization. Worse, too many compliances and tax terrorism have become the bane of wealth creators, whether first-general entrepreneurs or business tycoons.
The consequences: the economy remains shackled, jobs are not getting generated, and public finance is in a mess. It has had its impact on national defence: the military is woefully short of arms and ammunition; the Vice-Chief of the Army Staff said that last year on record. Even this year’s defence allocation is short, the ruling party’s pompous claims notwithstanding.
China can be dangerous without firing a bullet: it has steadfastly shielded Masood Azhar, the mastermind of Pulwama, and supported Pakistan that harbours him
A less tangible result is on the moral behaviour of politicians. Since socialism is premised on the state is the prime mover of progress and development, politics becomes an enterprise of grabbing and retaining power, whatever the cost. The cost is often the neglect of national defence: when those who matter are busy manipulating law-enforcement agencies and institutions for electoral gains, security of the nation becomes tentative. And when there is no coherent policy, ad-hocism rules the roost, expressing itself in shrill rhetoric, surgical strikes, and so on.
While socialism incapacitates the economy and weakens national security, non-alignment lulls the minds of powers-that-be into nurturing pacifist fantasies. Nehru did that during his tenure; 1962 was the denouement. Modi has been doing this for quite some time. After completing two years in office, he said in an interview to the Wall Street Journal, “There is no reason to change India’s non-alignment policy that is a legacy and has been in place.”
Modi downplayed the multifarious threats emanating from China: “We don’t have any fighting with China today. We have a boundary dispute, but there is no tension or clashes. People-to-people contacts have increased. Trade has increased. Chinese investment in India has gone up. India’s investment in China has grown. Despite the border dispute, there haven’t been any clashes. Not one bullet has been fired in 30 years. So the general impression that exists, that’s not the reality.”
But China can be dangerous without firing a bullet: it has steadfastly shielded Masood Azhar, the mastermind of Pulwama, and supported Pakistan that harbours him. Our government, however, has remained insouciant about China’s role. Mao and Chou Enlai betrayed Nehru; over half a century later, Xi succeeded in lulling Modi into complacency. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Therefore, whatever the Modi regime may do—surgical strikes or heavier response—the export of terror from Pakistan will not cease. We should not forget that the strikes in September 2016, despite being reportedly successful, failed to end terror. The real change—that is, containment of Islamabad’s malevolence—can happen only if government sheds Nehruvian proclivities. Worse, there is no alternative: there is no possibility of a non-Modi government breaching the Nehruvian Consensus. Even worse, the alternatives appear to be worse.
So, there may be a lot of heat and dust generated by the Pulwama massacre, but there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.