Oh India!

Posted on September 11, 2016

The BJP government may as well giftwrap Kashmir and send it over to Pakistan. In unleashing fresh torture in the valley in this age and time, it has done no less. That is how bad a fanatic government is to a country’s assumed or real national interest. Since its inauguration, the Modi government has hardened the country’s position swiftly, only if moronically, and introduced ridiculous and unrealistic red lines treating legitimate actors like the Hurriyat as pariahs and shot itself repeatedly in the foot by weakening its allied government in Kashmir. And it just keeps getting better.

Sparring with Pakistan openly, getting provoked by statements from a country that it claims no longer is in its league and the use of pellet guns in close proximity of the victims resulting in casualties, disfigurements and permanent loss of sight, are only a few examples. The principle of torture, I read somewhere, is to ensure that the face of the victim is not attacked because compared to the rest of the body, it swells up readily, looks ugly and can easily be photographed. This then must have taken an uncanny amount of hatred for someone to commit this crime, not once, not twice but constantly for the past many weeks. And even if the state torture were to miraculously stop today, the damage is done. There exists enough evidence in the shape of fresh footage, case studies, bodies and souls to enrage more than a generation. You thought an innocent looking Burhan Wani was too much, imagine how a permanently blinded 14-year-old will look when she learns to walk and talk again. Of course India has tremendous soft power but like everything else, it has its limits. One particular limitation is that no amount of soft power can compensate for sheer and outrageous stupidity. Consider this. Like any other power with big ambitions, India has a plethora of assets strewn across the globe. The purpose of these embedded jewels is to build a case for Indian interests abroad. But these assets are now asked to indulge in such an obnoxious amount of propaganda, that too to hide some critical mistakes by their government, that their own capacity to sell the goods has been compromised and their cover, so to speak, is all but blown. This hasty, self-immolating, comic strip approach to policymaking is unheard of in a country ruled by generations of graceful and charming politicians. This is poor show even by the BJP’s own standards. Forget Vajpayee. Compared to Modi, hawks of the past like Advani and Sushma Swaraj look like towering giants of statesmanship. Pakistan can then lift its arms in ecstasy, look up at the sky in gratitude and shout hallelujah.

More to the point, let’s take Modi’s Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan faux pas for instance. The man evidently has absolutely no sense of perspective. The war in Balochistan is over. Whatever happened, happened there between 2004 and 2013. Today, an Indian serviceman by the name of Kulbushan Yadav sits like a ticking time bomb in Pakistani custody as evidence of Indian meddling. Now with economic windfalls in sight, it is no more an issue of fighting the authorities but of ensuring that the local population gets its due share. And Gilgit-Baltistan? What was he even thinking? The fact is that the world is witnessing the unprecedented hardening of the Indian state and society under Modi. When you have a prime minister who was barred from entering the civilised parts of the world only until a couple of years ago, his image management becomes a foreign policy goal in itself. Foreign policy compromises are then made for the sake of smiling selfies with world leaders to present him as a statesman. But Modi, a statesman? Yeah sure. And my white Persian cat can read and write books.

In recent months, hoping to gain more manoeuverability by its own standards, the Indian government has offered some huge concessions to the West by signing the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement. Such concessions, even under a half decent government, were enough to tip the scales in India’s favour. But not under Modi. Not during the brinkmanship days of Dr Strangeloves like Ajit Doval. I wonder why nobody forewarned the Indians about false prophets. And the problem now is they have no out. In this environment of war hysteria and fear, nobody will dare remove this government. By the time its term is over, irreparable damage would have been done to Indian state and society.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2016.