Incensed with Pak, Modi declares war on… poverty!

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first public speech after the Uri attack that killed 18 soldiers was as pointless as it was pompous. He has said everything that the entire world already knew; and he hasn’t given any indication of any firm response to Pakistan’s malevolence and insolence. Firm response need not be military only; he could have announced the beginning of the end of all ties with our western neighbor; he hasn’t done that.

Speaking at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s National Council meeting at Kozhikode in Kerala, he said, “I tell those who believe in human values, to weigh in the scale of humanity, when innocent children were massacred in a school in Peshawar. In India, every school was weeping, there were tears in the eyes of every parliamentarian. That was a reflection of our human value, but look at the other side which glorifies terrorists.”

This is pure rhetoric, without much consequence. Intoxicated with Islamism, Pakistanis have lost not only human sensitivities but also the faculties of reason and prudence. If the slaughter of their own children has not opened their eyes to the horrors of jihadist doctrines, nothing else will. Surely not an Indian Prime Minister’s beseeching.

“If you [people of Pakistan] want to fight, come let’s fight. Let’s see who ends poverty first, who solves [the] unemployment [problem], who prevents infant deaths, malnutrition, and who eradicates illiteracy,” Modi said.

This is dangerously misleading on several counts. First, it tends to give credence to the Left-liberal theory that there is a chasm between the people and the (military and civil) rulers of Pakistan. As if there were no democratically elected government over there, as if what the elected representatives like Nawaz
Sharif say have nothing to do with the thoughts and feelings of the people, as if Gen. Raheel Sharif and the rest of the military brass were from some other country, as if the Army of Pakistan were at loggerheads with its people!

This is pure claptrap, so nonsensical that only intellectuals can believe in it. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has lent some credence to this drivel.

Second, we can’t choose to make poverty eradication and the fight against external aggression to be sequential. In 1971, Indira Gandhi didn’t tell Yahya Khan, ‘Let’s fight poverty first’; she waged war against Pakistan. This is despite the fact that there was much more poverty in India as well as in Pakistan at that time than it is now (quite apart from the fact that Pakistan had a much better international standing at that time than it has now).

Third, like the joys and sorrows in the lives of individuals, progress and wars also take place simultaneously in the history of countries. Nations of Europe have fought scores, if not hundreds, of wars in the last 500 years, including the two biggest ever that mankind has witnessed—the World Wars in the last century; yet, the continent has also experienced enormous progress in every sense of the word—economic, political, social, cultural, literary.

“People of Pakistan should question their leadership on why, when both countries gained freedom together, while India exports software, Pakistan exports terrorists,” Modi said in his speech. The fact is that many people in Pakistan do ask such questions, but their voices get submerged under the deluge of jihad.

Besides, he has also ignored the fact that terrorists are the product of the books that are taught in their schools, the Islamist views that are peddled in Pakistan, the climate of opinion that the Islamization drive has shaped, especially during and after the Zia-ul-Haq regime.

Against his backdrop, the Prime Minister’s statement that “India never has and never will bow down to terror, it will defeat terror” sounds hollow. For, as I mentioned in the beginning, he has not talked about any meaningful response—military or non-military.