The firm measures initiated by the Modi government against Pakistan after the dastardly terrorist attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Pulwama on February 14—including the withdrawal of the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, imposition of a punishing 200 per cent duty on goods imported from that country and the decision to cut off the flow of excess Indus waters—have been hugely appreciated across India. Apart from all this, the Centre’s all-out diplomatic offensive against Pakistan and its success in getting the UN Security Council including China to condemn Jaish-e-Mohammed has been hailed for its decisiveness and speed—quite a contrast to the faint-hearted and aimless responses of the foreign office when the Nehruvians ruled the roost.
These measures and the others that are to follow constitute India’s first clear signal that “enough is enough” and that the era of pusillanimous responses to Pakistan’s belligerence is over. It will also silence all those who felt that war is the only option or those who argued that war is no option. The nationwide protests against Pakistan and the unprecedented demand that we must avenge the suicide attack that claimed over 40 lives in Pulwama are clear pointers to the fact that Indians have now completely run out of patience and want firm measures to contain the terrorist-state across the border.
Since the attack, the nation has seen hundreds of spontaneous marches in villages, small towns and metros with student bodies, professional groups, resident welfare associations and trader associations taking the initiative to organise them. These are not sponsored by political parties or social organisations, but are impromptu manifestations of public outrage at the loss of lives and boiling anger over the never-ending cross-border terror engineered by Pakistan. But the most significant change is that “revenge” has now entered the Indian lexicon for the first time after Partition and this universal demand for retribution is certain to have its impact on the decisions that the country’s political and military leadership will take in the aftermath of Pulwama.
India has never before witnessed such a nationwide cry to settle scores. Though there have been dozens of incidents in the past including the infiltration of so-called tribesmen into Kashmir in 1948, the wars of 1965, 1971 and 1999, the attack on Parliament, the terror strike in Mumbai and the attack on the army camp in Uri, India’s political leadership always succeeded in cooling tempers and giving people the hope that Pakistan would one day mend its ways and become a good neighbour.
It is also true that a small but influential minority of peaceniks in Lutyens Delhi—a kind of pro-Pakistan lobby—has always pushed the Indian establishment towards “talks” after each war or terror strike. Currently the national mood is so inflamed that this lobby, barring some members, has virtually closed shop. Pakistan must take note of this. It is no longer dealing with a tolerant and patient India dulled into believing that the pursuit of peace was the only option “because you can’t change your neighbours” or “you can’t change geography”. Apart from these shibboleths, in the post-1999 phase, the Lutyens pro-Pakistan lobby has consistently tried to weaken India’s resolve by reminding us that Pakistan is a nuclear state. To the best of my knowledge, not one member of this club has ever told Pakistan that India is a nuclear state and that should India ever use the nuclear option, Pakistan would cease to exist!
Today, Indians believe it is possible to change geography, in the sense that while the land across the border will remain the same, the boundaries can get altered and the nomenclature of the neighbour can change. After all, did not “East Pakistan” evaporate one day? The dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 has been so complete that the current generation of Indians have to be reminded via history books in schools that Bangladesh was once a part of Pakistan.
Pulwama is the tipping point. There is no going back to the days of “you can’t change your neighbours”. This message is going out not just to the country’s political leadership but to everyone else—cricket aficionados, Bollywood, businessmen, traders and agriculturists. The Lutyens lobby must now shut shop and stop cribbing about Pakistani actors or singers being asked to return home. The BCCI must take note of national sentiment and cut off all cricketing ties with Pakistan. Bollywood, cricket and the music industry must learn from our traders and farmers. The moment Pulwama happened, the tomato growers of Madhya Pradesh unanimously decided not to export their produce to Pakistan even though they earn huge profits from this business.
In the 1950s, it was said that India must make concessions “to save Liaquat Ali (then PM) and democracy” in Pakistan. In the 1970s, it was the “save Bhutto and democracy” argument that prevailed and Indira Gandhi gifted away territory won in the war and released 93,000 prisoners of war without adequate recompense. In 1999, Pakistan once again intruded into Kargil and forced a war on India. Hundreds of Indian soldiers laid down their lives and drove out the infiltrators. Even as the funerals of the martyrs were on, the pro-Pakistan lobby started its usual refrain: “PM Nawaz Sharif’s hands must be strengthened” lest a military dictator take his place!
Today, the pro-Pakistan lobby is at it again, albeit hesitantly. Now the argument is “we must give Imran Khan a chance, lest a dictator take his place!”. The government must dismiss such suggestions with the contempt they deserve.
A SURYA PRAKASH
Chairman, Prasar Bharati