Saturday, October 10, 2015

If this continues, India will no longer be the big brother of the sub-continent

Pakistan proposes and India disposes. One wants to talk but the other doesn’t. Paranoia defines the relationship between these two South Asian neighbours. They clearly haven’t learnt from history, nor do they desire to create a better future. India aims to play a big role at the international arena, yet remains stuck in a time warp. As a result the subcontinent remains disturbed and volatile, thereby, affecting the progress and prosperity of one of the oldest civilisations of the world.

India has again demonstrated its paranoia by rejecting Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s peace overtures. It has proven that the big brother of South Asia refuses to grow up. In his United Nations address, Sharif proposed that the two nuclear-armed countries should implement a ceasefire in Kashmir and take steps to demilitarise the region.

New Delhi did not take time to reflect on the peace proposal; it turned the overtures in no time. Such an attitude only demonstrates a premeditated and rigid mind-set. It also shows the inflexibility of South Asia’s largest democracy on the issue of peace. If Islamabad needs peace, so does New Delhi and if one is troubled, the other cannot live in tranquillity either.

Yes, it is true that that the Islamic Republic harboured and nurtured extremist forces to exploit them as strategic assets, it is, however, also true that the Frankenstein it created, is now devouring its own creator. And to portray the entire nation as one comprising only of terrorists and undermining the predominant constituents, who advocate peace, is a bad policy.

New Delhi is strengthening the hands of those vested interests and extremist forces, which flourish on anti-Indian rhetoric. They are demoralising those who seek normalcy, and continue to push them in the arms of anti-peace forces.

We were hopeful that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “neighbourhood first” policy would herald a new narrative of engagement between the two neighbours. And hope soared high when Modi invited Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony last year. People in Pakistan thought that the man, who rose from a humble background, to the highest political post of the country, would think like the common man and understand the urges of the masses, which yearn for peace.

But Modi has so far remained a prisoner of his primeval urges, as a pupil of Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) world view. He asserts more as a radical Hindu leader than the visionary that he is supposed to be.

In just 15 months, the Indian leadership has lost the trust of Pakistan. Modi is no longer taken as a leader with a new outlook, he is instead perceived as a representative of a regressive, reactionary force, who is not availing the opportunities that fate has offered him.

As a result, the new generation is being groomed on a very divisive narrative. It sustains and nurtures its worldview on half-truths and paranoia. The society is turning radical, intolerant and is becoming violent towards voices of rationalism. If we blame Pakistan for nurturing terrorism in the country and the subcontinent, then we also need to blame ourselves for instilling and promoting radicalism in the Indian society, in the name of countering Pakistan. We are, in a way, becoming the mirror image of the enemy we seek to fight.

This can widely be seen in Indian TV studios, the popular discourse and the ways liberals and rationalists are falling victims to the hate culture being promoted very assiduously by the Hindu right wing forces.

An example of this has been seen recently, when the India’s far right party Shiv Sena called on the cancellation of Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali’s upcoming concert in Mumbai. We always perceived this ghazal legend as our own. We never defined him in terms of religion or nationality. His mellifluous ghazals have been acting as balms to our tense nerves for generations. But with this act we are dividing the civilizational asset and insulting the entire nation.

How long will we go on like this?

Is the hatred sustainable and in the larger interest of the subcontinent?

Ironically, Modi never tires himself telling the nation and the world that he is for development. When he travels abroad, he brags about India holding a new prestige due to him, and the world has discovered new respect for the largest democracy of the world.

However, the way India is backstabbing the peace process and promoting rigidities, how will they bring good name to the country?

Can a disturbed region assure growth in India?

The answer is no.

New Delhi’s attitude is not to the liking of other neighbours as well. Modi’s “neighbourhood first” initiative has remained a meaningless slogan. Nepal, a close Indian ally, is very upset with its southern neighbour’s behaviour and its belligerent interference.

Similarly, there are no attempts to reach out to Pakistan with an open mind.

It is a fact that New Delhi’s historical and traditional ally, Afghanistan, is also not on the same page with them. India stands isolated in the Hindukush today. The reason is its rigidity and lack of progress in talks with Pakistan. Kabul understands that a large part of the trouble in Afghanistan is also due to the existing animosities between New Delhi and Islamabad.

If one looks objectively at India, then it’s evident that the nation has more to lose by following the “no talk” policy till “Pakistan controls terrorism”. Parochialism is restricting its progress and constricting its growth. By maintaining distance from the western neighbour, we are not only losing on trade and a sound bilateral relationship; we are also spreading extremism in our own society by strengthening the voices of irrationalism, majoritarianism and undermining the secular spirit of the nation.

The other effect is that extremist elements and those who are anti-peace in the Islamic Republic remain entrenched and a source of perpetual threat to peace in the subcontinent.

The leadership has to go beyond political gain and loss, in order to build a new architecture of peace in the subcontinent. The leadership has to go against the mainstream opinion of the party and the core constituent, it is only then that you can leave a lasting legacy.

The perfect example is Angela Merkel in Germany, who went out of her way to accommodate refugees in the country, without caring for critics or supporters. This humane approach made her the tallest leader in Europe. She has set a new parameter for future leadership.

The subcontinent needs this kind of statesman.

from The Express Tribune Blog

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