Opinion: India needs action on enemies within to defeat the enemies outside

These institutions are under tremendous strain at the moment. If we see how our External Affairs Ministry and Defense spokespersons are under tremendous pressure then we have to realise a fact that the Electronic media in India has become the biggest curse to our democracy and a powerful threat to our national integration.

Sushma swaraj at OIC
Image Courtesy: PTI

In the 46th session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), external affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was invited and despite Pakistan’s protest and boycott, the invitation was not retracted. The speech on ‘pluralism’ by Sushma Swaraj was published and BJP’s ministers were quick to jump that this was a big turn around and a successful foreign policy initiative by the Prime Minister. They gave example that never in the history of Independent India, did we get an invitation from the OIC to speak. In fact, Mr Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad’s invitation was withdrawn at the last moment in 1969 at the insistence of Pakistan, thus creating an embarrassing condition for the host country that had invited him and then told him not to attend the summit.
Since then, India has not accorded OIC any importance but with the Modi government’s overdrive to score political points, India decided to send Ms Sushma Swaraj while Pakistan boycotted the preliminary session. Now, OIC has passed a resolution presented by Pakistan criticizing India. While it does not matter much, as OIC has been speaking this language for long, but the Indian position was always about ignoring it. Ironically, Pakistan has also been made the permanent member of OIC’s human rights body. The fact of the matter is that pluralism has never been the strength of OIC member countries, neither are they devoted to democracy and human rights. India’s strength was its strong secular credentials despite all its weaknesses of prejudices and biases. As constitutionally, we are not a theocratic country.
Today, India has power and the world listens to it and wants to embrace it. All this is not a single day’s work but the result of India’s growth story and the success of its institutions, which are now respected the world over. Globally, the Indian model of coexistence has been appreciated but today there is a worry about India and its secular character.
We always believed that political power is based on electoral calculations and institutions are there to balance things and implement rule of law to save us from collapse. These institutions are under tremendous strain at the moment. If we see how our External Affairs Ministry and Defense spokespersons are under tremendous pressure then we have to realise a fact that the Electronic media in India has become the biggest curse to our democracy and a powerful threat to our national integration. It has put enormous pressure on our armed forces and displayed all their actions for the public gaze. All their movements are being reported and discussed from dawn to dusk.
It refuses to accept that our ‘Faujis’ too are human beings who have family and children. In the din of their ‘bravery’, it creates an unimaginable strain to ‘succeed’ without understanding the dynamics of regions and tough on ground situations. While all those who join armed forces serve the nation with their head held high, as it is their job profile, they also have a human wish to live and love.
In the last few days, we have got a number of messages from the family members, particularly the wives of those who died on duty whether in war or handling local crisis. It is a well-known fact, given the nature of our society, that the biggest victims of war are children and women. Once the ‘josh’ has cooled and calmed, the bitter realities of lives take centre stage. We already know how after the Kargil war, a number of young women lost their husbands. Though the government tried to compensate for it through money to hide its own failure, the family crisis deepened. The crisis of losing a husband and losing a son. Now, it was women who were actually fighting each other. One seeking compensation for her son, while other for her husband. In many places, these issues came to the court.
This society is brutal. It does not allow a woman to grieve as the media is present all the time. If she remarries after some days, media jumps on the story and spins it to say that she married and left her ‘parents in law’ in the lurch. If she does not, life is still difficult for her. Many of the parents in law, want her to marry the younger son against her will and we all know keeping the compensation money in the family becomes a big issue.
As I said, Indian foreign policy is coming under tremendous strain. So is our social structure, unity and integrity in the country. Not many feel that Imran Khan has become a ‘peacenik’ because the power is still in the hands of the army and the agenda to make India bleed from many cuts remains the top of Pakistan’s military leadership. That is the historical crisis of the Pakistan elite. Though there was a time when many in India felt that military leadership was useful for negotiations with Pakistan and General Parvez Musharraf was the prime example for it, but the Agra summit between him and Vajpayee was foiled by Advani and hawks like him. Otherwise, we would have progressed more, particularly on Kashmir.
In the last four and a half years, this government did not act on the ground but through propaganda. It allowed the creation of extremely poor and divisive narratives related to Pakistan which focused on catering the Hindutva constituency and made little impact on Pakistan. The attacks on our security forces increased manifold during these years but the government and BJP leaders focused not on governance but on TV channels, resulting in us became a global laughing stock.
More than the government, it is these channels who have become a huge embarrassment for our security as well as foreign policy establishment. They feel that they are glorifying our forces but in fact, they are putting immense mental pressure through this warmongering. Pakistan actually won the perceptional war where hawks there felt that the Modi government was more suitable for their propaganda.
The drama played out by Pakistan with the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan was actually to preempt things and not allow the Indian side to score any points. It would still be appreciated if the armed forces dealt with the issue with sobriety and without giving the media much of a chance to convert it into a tamasha. I think it was a good strategy to not allow media access and platform to create another crisis. Since Pulwama, these fake warriors have been trying to create division and crisis for the benefit of their political patrons and TRPs. Like their patrons, they too want to go for a war without thinking of its consequences, as well as without letting our forces take their own decisions. This is dangerous and has to stop. India cannot afford to lose even the perceptional war.
Today, you need diplomacy to put pressure on countries which do not follow basic principles. A country like North Korea is now realizing the cost of international isolation and coming to the discussion table. There are numerous other ways. No country would survive if it remains isolated. Further, for India, it would be better to strengthen political movements in Pakistan as well as strengthen its secular constitutional values. If people of India face discrimination on the basis of their religion, caste identities or due to their regional identity, how are we going to counter the propaganda by others? It is a serious concern. If you exclude people and communities from the power structure and political process, you give potential ammunition to your opponents.
War takes you nowhere. It only brings destruction and no solution. We had so many of them and we are still fighting. We need to seriously engage with people in the political process and develop a culturally inclusive society.
You cannot keep the Kashmiri people out of the process to bring peace in South Asia or between India and Pakistan. Kashmir for Pakistan is its Islamic agenda and Indians want to prove their ‘secular’ and ‘democratic’ credentials. It is important to first bring normalcy in the valley by strengthening institutions of governance and involving political parties and civil society organizations. There is no other way than talks, talks and talks. These are political issues which can be resolved through negotiations and an open heart. Once we have done so, it would be easier to convince the world that Pakistan needs to act against the Islamic terror organizations.
It will be equally important for the Indian government to act against the venom spewing channels as well as the organizations campaigning against minorities in general and Muslims in particular. You cannot win the war by deliberately excluding and marginalizing nearly 15% of your population. It is time to put this to an end to this and strengthen the idea of an inclusive India which alone can and will defeat all those forces trying to destabilize us.



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