Seasoned observers of the political scene in the South-West region had expectations that the Indian national elections in 2019 will bring about offensive overtures from India towards Pakistan. Pakistan-bashing is a tried-and-tested electioneering ploy in Indian electoral practices and both the government and opposition garnish their campaigns with it. The conflict in Kashmir has been a convenient excuse for Indian politicos to blame Pakistan for inciting violent trouble in the valley and get political mileage out of it.
This year the problem for incumbent Modi government became severe as it lost state elections in many important states of the union. Indian National Congress also resurged and Rahul-Priyanka appeared a looming danger to BJP. BJP also faced the worrying spectre of broken alliances with many of its ultra-rightist partners who helped it to win polls in 2014 and form government. The widespread dissent saw BJP fighting to keep its unity intact.
Narendra Modi emerged on the Indian national scene after running the state of Gujrat with a communal heavy hand for 13 years. His Hindutva-oriented views were not hidden from anyone but in a xenophobic shift the Indian electorate gave him the mandate to rule. The lacklustre performance of the technocrat Manmohan Singh of the Congress for a decade added credibility to the status of Modi as a political chief minister of proven ability.
Modi’s stint in power saw India pandering to the chauvinistic opinion of caste Hindus who traditionally hold the balance of power in India. The obvious targets of extremist Hindu-oriented policies were the Muslims and oppressed classes known as Dalits. Modi government’s exclusive policies resulted in fanning anti-Union struggles in India and gave fresh impetus to irredentist conflicts with neighbours. Chinese and Indian armies virtually faced a stand-off in the China-India border town of Doklum where Chinese contested Indian construction of military tenements.
Modi overeagerly indulged in pampering the Kabul regime and invested plenty of money in Afghanistan particularly in building infrastructure. Indian advances in Afghanistan were naturally resented by Pakistan but Modi government pursued its so-called policy of encircling Pakistan from its western borders. Modi government also supported separatist movements in Balochistan and these designs were proven when an Indian spy was caught red-handed who exposed Indian plans.
Modi government was particularly severe with Kashmiri Muslims and kept on increasing the number of Indian military in Indian-held Kashmir. It tried very hard to suppress the independence movement in the valley and used extremely violent means such as pellet guns to kill and maim protesting Kashmiris. It changed the demographic situation in Jammu by moving Hindus with the result that BJP gained majority in Jammu area of Kashmir state legislature.
Despite his high-flying style, Modi failed to keep his Hindu base intact as most of his election promises failed to materialise. Unemployment soared causing unrest in urban areas. The neglect shown to the large agriculture sector compelled the farmers to come out to protest. The general disaffection is clearly evident in India as BJP lost elections in many key states.
It was in this backdrop that the Pulawama incident took place. Even some sections of the Indian media are skeptical about taking an 89-vehicle convoy of reserve police personnel through a busy road making it an obvious target of militants operating all over Kashmir. High placed observers also maintain that it was not possible to clear the tough security cordon thrown around the capital city particularly by a large vehicle. In the first place it was not possible to gather a huge quantity of explosives keeping in view that security forces are always on high alert.
As was expected Modi government conveniently took advantage of the war-like atmosphere created by political speeches and jingoistic media and launched an air raid under the pretext of punishing the perpetrators of the Pulawama attack and also to destroy their network. The Indian aggression compelled Pakistan to react resulting in India losing two fighter aircrafts and one of their pilots coming into the custody of Pakistani forces.
The pre-conceived Indian aggression was adequately mapped by Pakistan and the retaliation was measured but ferocious. This shortsighted adventure of Modi has created a global tension causing jitters about the prospects of escalation of conflict between two nuclear-powered countries having a long history of animosity. It is surprising to observe what mileage Modi government will get out of a puerile action and how will it prove beneficial to the electoral designs of BJP. To Modi’s intense chagrin, Pakistan has proved a very worthy adversary and will certainly not blink first. TW