For Bharat Mata: why Modi cannot let the talks with Pakistan stall
The virtue of living in a Hindu Rashtra is that death is just the embryo for reincarnation. Bharat Mata giveth and Bharat Mata taketh away, but Bharat Mata giveth again, blessed be the name of Bharat Mata. Or, to be liturgically correct, Bharat Mata Ki Jai, which in my mother tongue, Bengali, becomes an alarmed question, Is Bharat Mata going away? With her most ardent acolytes clueless if they are coming or going, they can hardly blame her if she does decamp, perhaps for a tryst in the high Himalayas with Abba Pakistan.
The nation as Abhisarika is a marvellous thought, but before the nation bans it as scandalously anti-national, remember that it was Bharata, in his Natyasastra, who defined the moods and forms in which his feminine avatar conducts her courtship: Kalahantarita, sulking in her tent in a significant bother after Ufa; Vasakasajja, dressed to the nines to drop in at Lahore for tea; Virahotkanthita, distraught when this led nowhere; Khandita, furious with the insignificant other after Pathankot; Vipralabhdha, betrayed by the significant other after the JIT; and so, the last throw of the dice, to Abhisarika.
Of course, if the romance is dead, if the spark has gone out of the relationship, except when a mujahid lights a fuse, all of this is irrelevant. Pakistan's high commissioner claims, to a counterpoint of gnashed Indian teeth, that the dialogue process is suspended, but he was sent to lie abroad for the good of his country, which he has done, because the truth is that it is either dead or has taken up yoga and got stuck on Shavasana. But fear not: the lower right hand of Bharat Mata is usually in Abhayamudra. The dead in Bharat live, again and again, until they work out their karma.
Only Bharat Mata's Pradhan Mantri, principal pronouncer of mantras, can cast the spells in her name that will raise the dead into a new life, but unlike his two predecessors, he is vague about what he wants from that next incarnation. Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh wanted peace in their time, the unthinkable made flesh, which alarmed Pakistan's generals, for whom this is their greatest nightmare. Narendra Modi does not seem to dream the same dreams, which should reassure them, but they have been bitten twice before, by his predecessors and by Nawaz Sharif. Lahore showed them that he is unpredictable and self-willed, a dangerous combination for them if he too turns into a rabid peacenik. All the pointless provocations they keep throwing up is to keep him sane and hostile.
It follows that peace is out of the question for now. Between India and Pakistan, peace will be a guillotine, sudden and swift, separating for ever the past from the future. That will have to wait, but Pakistan's generals must be reassured that whatever else is being made in Modi's India, it's not their tumbrils. It is a paradox that if India wants to strengthen the civilian government in Pakistan, it can only do so by giving the military there a greater sense of self-confidence. In turn, this means that ISI provocations may taper off, and there will be token responses to our requests, once the military sees that peace is not about to break out, its privilege is secure and engagement with India is on their terms.
Why should our prime minister agree? He knows Pakistan cannot give him the investment, technology, markets or tourism that India needs. Those are his priority. But, as he also now knows, he cannot ring-fence Pakistan and get on with transforming India, because the generals there will not let him. They know Pakistan has already been left behind, the gap is too large to bridge, but they do not want it to become a chasm, which it will if Modi's ambitions for India bear fruit. The more we ignore Pakistan and flaunt India's potential before the world, the more envious and fearful its generals will be, and the more determined to drag us down to their level. There will be more terrorism in India, not less.
We want to remove the hyphen that has attached us to Pakistan, but for its generals that is their lifeline. We want a definitive partition, the generals there cling on to us like parasites. Oddly, we can only make the world see us as we are, not as an unequal twin of Pakistan, if we deal normally with it rather than only as an enemy, with engagement restricted to exchanges of fire. Then we simply become two hostile, nuclear-armed states, a danger for the world. Investment and technology does not come to a country in a conflict-zone, tourists stay away. Modi can take India places, not by putting Pakistan's generals in their place, but by putting them at ease.
This is why it is important for him to let the dialogue resume, so that at least a semblance of normality is restored. He has shown that he can shed shibboleths, question received wisdom. He should do so now. On his beat, Pathankot was not an outrage graver than the attack on the Dinanagar police station, on the Army camp in Tanghdar, or Udhampur, or the major encounter in Pampore in February this year, all of them the work of jihadis from across the border. The Air Force is not more sacrosanct than the Army. And though all terrorism is despicable, attacks on unarmed civilians are universally considered far more unacceptable than those on defence installations, where the personnel can fight back. So why should everything now hinge on Pathankot, with all the other attacks before and after seemingly of no consequence?
If this an agnipariksha for Pakistan, it will fail it. What then? Will terrorism die out? It won't. Will we be able to insulate ourselves from the malevolence of its Army and get on with Making in India? We cannot. Can we force it to behave? We can't, and Modi now knows it, which is why he dropped the bluster of 2014 and tried to reach an accommodation with Nawaz Sharif. Modi is silver-tongued. He should explain to the country that he must press ahead with Pakistan so that India can forge ahead. His devotees believed him when he told them the ancients practised plastic surgery in Bharat. Even if some think that this tale is even taller than their leader, they believe him and in him. It would be the truth. And Bharat Mata would bless him for it.
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.
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