Pakistan rhetoric in Indian elections The Statesman 14 May 2024 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


Pakistan rhetoric in Indian elections The Statesman 14 May 2024

          As Indian elections are underway, Pakistan comes into picture despite being a non-entity, begging for funds. Rajnath Singh, in a press interview said, ‘I think India will not have to do anything. The way the region is witnessing economic progress and the way peace has returned there, I think demands will emerge from people of POK that they should merge with India.’ He was referring to economic development in the region.

Last week there was a rally in POK on rising inflation, severe unemployment, revocation of subsidies on wheat and flour, unjustified load shedding etc. The Pak army employed brutal force to subdue anger growing against Islamabad. Indian flags are regularly on display in POK protests, a turnaround from earlier days, when Pak flags were fluttering in Kashmir.

          Amit Shah mentioned in his interview, ‘Muslims and Hindus living in POK are also Indians and the land also belongs to India, illegally occupied by Pakistan. It is the goal of every Indian, every Kashmiri to get it back.’ Amit Shah has on multiple occasions blamed Jawaharlal Nehru for blunders resulting in the splitting of J and K.

          The PM has regularly raised the flawed approach of earlier Congress governments towards terrorist strikes emanating from Pakistan. In contrast, he projects the changed policy of his government, including launching of air and ground strikes on Pakistan, highlighting Balakote. In a recent address, PM Modi mentioned, ‘During the Congress regime, news headlines were about India handing over another dossier to Pakistan about terror activities,’ adding, ‘today, India doesn’t send dossiers. Aaj Bharat ghar mein ghus ke marta hai.’

This comment led to multiple global media houses, as also the Pak government, claiming it was an admission of India being involved in killings of anti-India terrorists on Pak soil. As per reports over 20 terrorists have been killed under mysterious circumstances in the past couple of years.

Such was the impact that Pakistan’s military media advisor, Major General Ahmed Chaudhary, stated in a press conference, ‘From the killing of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in another country, India has been involved in killings of individuals in Pakistan,’ adding Pak has irrefutable evidence. Its foreign office spokesperson, Mumtaz Baloch, mentioned, ‘(India) is involved in extrajudicial killings of Pakistani nationals on Pakistani territory.’ Both comments were rubbished by India.

The reality is that Indian leaders were highlighting the Balakote strike which gave them a major advantage in the 2019 elections. Comments from Pakistan of India’s involvement in assassination of anti-India terrorists on their soil provide a boost to the BJP’s campaign. The mere mention of POK and reiterating it being amalgamated into India immediately causes discomfort within Islamabad.

Jaishankar also jumped into the fray on POK. In an interaction with students in a Delhi college, he said, ‘every political party of this country is committed to ensure POK, which is a part of India, returns to India. This is our national commitment.’ He added that regaining POK only came to the forefront post abrogation of article 370.

Pakistan’s spokesperson countered Indian electioneering comments on POK by mentioning, ‘We are witnessing an alarming surge in provocative statements from Indian leaders asserting unwarranted claims on J and K. Pakistan rejects these claims. Fuelled by hyper-nationalism, this inflammatory rhetoric poses a grave threat to regional peace and susceptibility.’ However, naming Pakistan continues unabated.

For Islamabad, abrogation of article 370 came as a jolt from the blue. They had no clue on how to react. Their decision of halting trade and withdrawing High Commissioners was hurried as also a major strategic blunder. For restoring ties, they would be compelled to reverse both actions, something which could be political suicide for any government.

Their demands for India to reinstate article 370 is laughable. Relations will remain in limbo till political stability is restored in Pakistan, something unlikely in the near future, as battlelines between Imran and the army are drawn. Terrorism in Kashmir, currently at a low key will continue. Pakistan, fearing a repeat of Balakote will ensure that no terrorist act crosses India’s threshold of tolerance.  

With diplomatic freeze, talks are out of the question. However, politicians like Farooq Abdullah and Mani Shankar Aiyar continue to toe the line of dialogue. Farooq mentioned in a political rally, ‘There is no other way but to talk to Pakistan (to stop terrorism).’ He was backed by Omar Abdullah who mentioned, ‘The NC always supported a dialogue process (with Pakistan).’

Countering Rajnath Singh’s claim that POK will merge with India, Farooq mentioned, ‘they (Pakistan) are also not wearing bangles. It has atom bombs, and unfortunately, that atom bomb will fall on us.’ Mani Shankar Aiyar added, ‘Pakistan possesses an atom bomb so India must enter into a dialogue with them.’ Pakistan’s nuclear bogey was dumped in 1999 during Kargil as also in 2019 with the Balakote strike. PM Modi responded, ‘Yeh mare pade log, desh ke mann ko bhi maar rahe hain.’

In Punjab too, Pakistan’s name is exploited. Former Punjab CM, Charanjit Channi, accused the BJP of orchestrating the recent terrorist strike on an Indian Air Force convoy in which one personnel was killed. It opened a new political debate. Finally, Pakistan’s former minister, Fawad Chaudhary adds to humour in Indian campaigning. His tweets backing Rahul Gandhi brought laughter in an otherwise lacklustre campaign. Fawad was thrilled at being in the limelight for a few minutes.

The fact is talks with Islamabad never stopped terrorism. It only pushed Pakistan into believing that it is negotiating from a position of strength. With growth of the Indian economy, a change in Kashmiri mindset, accompanied with reduction in support to terrorism, the boot is on the other foot.

India has outgrown Pakistan, however bashes it during elections. Never is resolving the Kashmir dispute mentioned in any joint statement issued post a dignitary’s visit to new Delhi. It is resorted to by a desperate Pak. PM Modi highlighted ground reality in an interview to Republic TV, ‘For the past 10 years I have put a lock on Pakistan being a factor in running India. We don’t need to waste our time. We have moved far ahead.’

Ultimately, no matter what, Pakistan will play the role of a subdued villain, in Indian elections.      





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