WEB DESK: The way he is going India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a lifelong activist of the Hindu extremist organisation, RSS, reminds one of what the late Indian journalist, Praful Bidwai, had to say about the country’s Hindutva zealots in a newspaper article: “they want to get even with history.”
One of the RSS’ declared objectives is to avenge the Muslim invaders’ – real or perceived – oppression. No matter if most, at least a substantial number, of the present-day Muslims of the subcontinent are decedents of the native people who belonged to the same faith as the avengers and converted to Islam at one or another point in history.
Modi tried to accomplish a part of that mission by presiding over the massacre of some 2000 Muslims in Gujarat state. Getting tough with Pakistan was a constant theme in his electoral campaign rhetoric. More recently during a visit to Bangladesh, he claimed credit for his country for spilling Indian soldiers’ blood in aid of the Bengali war of independence from Pakistan. By the same token, it should be ok if Pakistan does the same in Kashmir, which in fact is a UN recognised dispute between the two countries.
Fairness, though, has no place in international politics. Encouraged by his country’s rising status as an economic power, PM Modi thinks he can fulfil his religious duty as well as his campaign promise. Making a terrorism case against this country his publically declared goal now is to isolate Pakistan.
Before we get to Modi’s shenanigans a little recall of recent history is in order. Terrorism as it is known these days has its origins in the West’s own adventure in Afghanistan. With help from Pakistan’s then military dictator, General Ziaul Haq, disparate Afghan tribes and religious zealots from Arab countries were brought together to be trained and armed on this country’s soil, and launched to go fight the Soviet ‘infidel invaders’ across the border. In the accompanying propaganda this was supposed to be a manifestation of “Islamic resurgence” and the fighters praise worthy ‘mujahedeen’. It turned out to be a big success.
Having achieved its objective the US got up and left, but the idea deeply impressed those in Pakistan who had lent it a helping hand. If it worked in Afghanistan, it could work somewhere of interest to them as well such as Kashmir, especially when an opportunity presented itself in 1989 in the form of a spontaneous Kashmiri uprising. The Kashmir jehadists thus created ended up damaging the indigenous Kashmiri freedom movement, and the religious indoctrination that went into producing them messed up this country socio-political orientation. For the US too the chickens came home to roost, committing the 9/11 atrocity. The ensuing environment prohibited mujahideen brand of militancy. Renamed ‘non-state actors’ they were to be outlawed and countered.
Hence in a statement issued after a January 2004 meeting with the visiting Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee then president General Pervez Musharraf gave an assurance that “he will not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used for terrorism in any manner.”
Western countries, however, have continued using, alongside their Middle Eastern allies, ‘non-state actors’ in the guise of opposition fighters for the achievement of their ends first in Libya and for over five years in Syria. They have been training, arming and financing fighters, including Salafi Islamists like the Al-Nusra Front, for the ouster of Syria’s pro-Iran Assad regime. So far as Pakistan is concerned it’s in its own interest not to repeat the same mistake. This state and society must get rid of violent religious extremism, engendered by the West, promoted by certain Gulf states, and tolerated by successive governments in this country-each for the furtherance of their respective political purposes.
The people of Pakistan have paid a heavy price for the jehadist policy. An estimated 60,000 lives have been lost, countless injured men, women and children are suffering lifelong disabilities, while extreme Islamists dominate the nation’s socio-political discourse. It is no time for the civil and military leadership to blame one another for not taking action against militant organisations. They need to join hands to de-radicalise members of all banned militant groups and rein in their leaders.
Modi now wants to exploit Western concern about terrorism to cover up the ongoing brutal repression in Kashmir and to “teach Pakistan a lesson.” On the one hand RAW is busy fomenting violence in Baluchistan and Karachi and on the hand he is pulling out all the stops to impose isolation on this country. So far he has managed to embarrass Pakistan only by hindering the SAARC Summit in Islamabad, with four of the eight member states refusing to attend.
The reason though, barring Sri Lanka, for the other three countries’ non-attendance is related more to their own problems than something new Pakistan is doing. Unlike her predecessors, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has an old score – going as far back as the 1971 secessionist war-to settle with Islamabad. Bhutan has historically been under Indian influence, and in fact until 2007 a formal treaty allowed India to ‘guide’ that small Himalayan kingdom’s foreign policy. Afghanistan, a lateral entrant into Saarc – being a Central Asian rather than a South Asian country – faults Pakistan for its internal troubles. Given the background cancellation of the summit is hardly a triumph for the Modi government.
On the more important international front the ‘isolate Pakistan’ policy is not going anywhere. New Delhi’s strategic partner, Washington, continues to advice against escalation of tensions. At the recent BRICS summit he hosted, Modi’s attempts to seek Pakistan’s seclusion using the Uri incident and to paint it as the “mother ship of terrorism” also flamed out. Conscious, apparently, of Modi’s intentions, in his speech at the event Russian President Vladimir Putin did not even mention terrorism. Chinese President Xi Jinping in an indirect but unmistakable reference to Kashmir called for finding a “political solution to “regional hotspots.”
Meanwhile, Pak-Iran relations are warming up with Tehran showing a keen interest in joining the CPEC project; and Islamabad’s pivot to Central Asia is progressing smoothly. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has just returned from a visit to Azerbaijan with a clutch of agreements under his arm to enhance trade and investment and the Azeri President’s statements of firm support for the Kashmir cause.
And last but not least, at last month’s meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, OIC foreign ministers reaffirmed support for the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination.
Clearly, Pakistan is not standing alone. But as long as Modi is at the helm looking for opportunities to implement RSS agenda, there is little hope of improvement in Pak-India relations. Still, Islamabad should keep the doors open to peace negotiations, and continue trying to ratchet down tensions with its difficult eastern neighbour.
Source: Business Recorder