This is not the first time that Modi has called out Pakistan. Remember that in 2014, when Modi won his immense victory, he invited Nawaz Sharif as an honoured guest for his swearing in-ceremony. Nawaz Sharif graced the occasion. This was the same Pakistan for whose blood the BJP was baying before the election. Then Modi took a detour in December, 2015 and landed in Lahore to celebrate Nawaz Sharif's birthday on his way back from Afghanistan. He gifted a sari to Nawaz's mother and cut a cake with him. It was hailed as a diplomatic masterstroke but for a layman like me it was the best gesture which only a good friend could offer to another friend!
Let's not forget that when Modi was in distress after the Pathankot terror attack in January, 2016, it was his government which invited the ISI to investigate the matter by allowing it access to the air force base that had been targeted. Will any country or leader invite his or her "enemy" to investigate a terrorist attack? Can one imagine America inviting Iraq or Al-Qaida after 9/11 to help in the investigation?
So now, can this call by Modi about Pakistan really tilt the electoral balance in Modi's favour? It is not astonishing that his statement was echoed on the same day by his man Friday, Amit Shah. This signifies that there is a design to involve Pakistan in the last round of campaigning. The Prime Minister must have seriously considered the implications of his words as also the cost-benefit analysis of his allegations on diplomacy. Foreign policy is not a joke; it's about relationships with a foreign country; if a country is not on friendly terms with you, then it is far more important to weigh the consequences before words are uttered. Modi's statement is a serious one. Saying that Pakistan is interfering in India's electoral process, wanting to anoint a man of its choice as Chief Minister, is extremely grave. If the accusation is correct, India should register its protest with Pakistan formally. India should immediately call Pakistan's High Commissioner to South Block and issue a warning. Maybe India can also call off diplomatic relationships!
If Ahmed Patel is Pakistan's choice as Chief Minister of Gujarat and Manmohan Singh, Hamid Ansari and Mani Shankar Aiyar are indulging in a conspiracy with Pakistan's High Commissioner, then it's a serious threat to national security - it amounts to treason and the government of India should immediately initiate action, all these gentlemen should be declared anti-nationals, arrested and given exemplary punishment.
India has the example of USA. During the presidential election, it was alleged that Russia is interfering in the electoral process, and hackers are influencing the election in favour of a particular candidate. It is alleged that Russia did not want Hillary Clinton to win, Donald Trump was their choice. Trump emerged victorious. But the matter did not end there. Now a proper investigation is on and Trump seems to be in a soup. His national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has already resigned. He has confessed that he lied to the FBI about his communication with the Russian ambassador. Trump's former foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to his connections with Russians. It is also alleged that Trump tried to influence the investigation. In the USA, institutions are far more autonomous. The President is feeling the heat. Why can't a similar thing be done in India? Why can't Mr Modi order a high-level inquiry and set an example for generations to come?
Indira Gandhi used to often blame "foreign hands" for any crisis in India. But that was the era of the Cold War. Such allegations were the flavour of the time. It was the era of the CIA and KGB plotting against each other. Shadowy figures were more important than real ones. Persons holding high positions were also greatly suspected of being an agent of some spy ring. In the battle for supremacy between communism and capitalism, conspiracies were hatched and executed by nations against each other. But with the demise of communism, such rhetoric has dissolved.
India is still a proud democracy which will not allow rogues to operate so openly. I also believe that neither Pakistan is a friend of Modi nor Modi a friend of Pakistan. His Pakistan utterances are the outpouring of a demoralised heart. These are the signs of nervousness typical of Modi. Whenever he is in trouble, ideology is his refuge. In the middle of the UP election, he raised the bogey of "Kabristan vs Shamshan (graveyard vs crematorium)". This is his way of connecting to his "hardcore" but disgruntled voters, his way of reminding voters about their and his ideological moorings, that the election is not about development but about ideological warfare and victories.
This is the same world view expressed by Amit Shah during the Bihar election when he said that if the BJP loses, crackers will be burst in Pakistan. These comments remind voters of their next-door "hate figures". It's about votes. And if Pakistan can bring them the votes, then so be it. That way, Pakistan is Modi's best friend.
(Ashutosh joined the Aam Aadmi Party in January 2014.)
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