Can Indians Stop Being OBSESSED with Pakistan

  • Instead of celebrating every Pakistani setback Indians should raise the performance bar by benchmarking with the best countries in the world. 
  • Five learnings from Modi Sarkar.
  • Article briefly traces Indo Pak relations from 1947 to date.


Ever since we got independence Pakistan has occupied India’s mind space in a manner that is disproportionate to its size and potential, the reasons for which are many.


India was divided on the basis of religion. In 1947 part of India became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The bloodshed then continues to remain part of our collective consciousness esp. in North India. Successive wars in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999 only accentuated the divide. Pakistan’s use of terror as an instrument of state policy is beyond compare. It supported terrorist movements in Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, hijacks, bomb blasts and riots across India not to forget the Kandhar hijack and border firing in Jammu and Kashmir. Rivalry in cricket esp. a six off the last ball by Javed Miandad in Sharjah added fuel to the fire.


Read What stops me from loving Pakistan?

Read Did Godhra save Pakistan?


Thus, Pakistan is seen as a country that hates India infinitely. By becoming India’s Enemy No 1 it is referred to in election campaigns, become a parameter by which patriotism is judged and a source of jingoism on prime time television debates.


The people of India were earlier told that one cannot chose your neighbours, Pakistan is a nuclear armed state so we must suffer Pak supported terrorism. Former Prime Ministers I K Gujral, Atal Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh tried their best to rein in Pakistan but failed. Strategic analysts said that India’s political leadership suffered from the Prithviraj Chauhan syndrome meaning unable to capitalise on an enemy’s defeat and go for the kill. 


Things began to change at the turn of the century. It started with Y2K when the world looked to India’s I.T. companies to help them sail through the change from the 19th to 20th century. There was no looking back for the I.T. sector thereafter. This and high growth rates towards the end of NDA1 made the world notice India – the elephant was eventually dancing.


Progress by the Indian economy made Indians believe they are moving ahead of Pakistan. This new found confidence was cemented by Saurav Ganguly’s boys who defeated Pakistan in Pakistan in 2004. Pakistan has forever wanted parity with India. However, India moved ahead. 


India’s relations with Pakistan went nowhere during UPA rule. Terrorist attacks continued unabated with 26/11/ being perpetually etched in our memory. One thought Modi would take a tough stand against Pakistan but that was not to be – remember his December 2015 surprise visit when the two prime ministers gifted shawls for their mothers. I wondered, why successive Indian Prime Ministers did not learn from history and always reached out to Pakistan. 


Things changed post the September 2016 Uri attack in which 19 soldiers made the supreme sacrifice. The Surgical Strikes raised the morale of the Indian people. Pakistan sought to destroy Modi’s tough man image with the Pulwama attacks. Balakot Air Strikes followed.


In hindsight, Paki Generals gifted a unsure of being re-elected Modi1 a shot in the arm. 


Scrapping of Article 370 followed Modi’s resounding victory. And now this Sunday’s Howdy Modi.


What strikes you is that Modi, after having faulted initially, realized that the only way to deal with Pakistan is by keeping it under pressure 24 by 7. So brick by brick he improved relations with Pakistan’s big supporters notably the U.S., Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. Simultaneously he applied international pressure by pushing Pakistan on the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Like during NDA1, Modi’s moves coincided with high growth rates in India. That made the world look at India differently.


When combined with Modi government’s event management and showcasing skills it could be a lethal combination.


Based on his dealings with Pakistan and as Prime Minister here are 5 traits worth noting.


1. Disturb status-quo, be a disruptor. It has caught opponents napping because they are used to the Congress way of thinking.


2. Take calculated risks. If India had lost a couple of aircraft during the Balakot Air Strikes Modi might have lost the election.


3. Convert every setback into an opportunity. 


Any other Head of State might have gone into a shell post Pulwama, like NDA1 did post the barbaric killing of BSF jawans by Bangladesh Rifles in 2001, but not Modi Sarkar.


Similarly, facing flak for an economic slowdown and falling G.S.T. collections, Modi2 reduced corporate taxes as never before.  


4. The world is about give and take.  


Many criticise Modi2 for extending a $ 1 billion Line of Credit for the development of Far East Region of Russia or PLL investment of $ 2.5 billion in Tellurian’s proposed Driftwood LNG export terminal, in exchange for the rights to 5 million metric tonnes of LNG per years for over 40 years. What Modi2 told these countries was that India has the money to invest and create jobs?


The Chinese have understood the importance of Modi’s Russian moves. A September 20 article in State-run Global Times, considered as a mouthpiece of China's Communist party, said, “Exploiting Moscow's concern of overdependence on China, India also marketed its presence in Russia as a balancing factor.” 


By pointing out that India has the lowest data costs in the world Modi gave a message to the politicians present that U.S. tech giants can make more money in India if they localise further – localising of data in India is a hot issue.  


5. Stop being a habitual defender, set the agenda.


It took nearly seventy years for India’s external affairs minister to forcefully say that “PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) is part of India and we expect one day that we will have physical jurisdiction over it.” Whether India occupies PoK or not is irrelevant. This statement has changed the terms of engagement on Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier Pakistan set the agenda now India is doing.  


Indians must realize that when a country follows an often treaded path, its moves are predictable and the country is forever on the defensive. If Modi2 recognises the Baluchistan Government in Exile one shall say, India’s approach has truly changed.  


Whilst one can learn from Modi’s approach what is of big concern is the time and energy Indians spend on Pakistan. Every time Pakistan faces a setback we celebrate esp. on social media. One can empathise with the hatred but by comparing ourselves with Pakistan we are lowering performance standards for ourselves. 


Indians are comparing themselves with a bankrupt State instead of benchmarking with the best in world namely Japan, China, U.S. and Germany. Pakistan should be irrelevant in our scheme of things. This is not to say that Pakistan will change because of recent setbacks.


Liberals might clamour for reconciliation and ask India to help, after all we are the same people. If Modi2 succumbs, the ghost of Prithviraj Chauhan might reappear.


Also read

1 A rebuttal of Pakistan propaganda

2 Takeaways from the Balakot airstrike

3 Why British created the Kashmir problem, how the U.S. compounded it and why China wants its closure

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