The key takeaway from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address is the hardening of attitude towards Pakistan. India too can play the game Pakistan has played all these years in Kashmir — and play it with greater finesse. Modi did not for a moment suggest even obliquely any intention to interfere in the affairs of Balochistan, Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan. No. He merely offered his sympathies to the long-suffering people there who were being crushed under the boot of the Pakistani Army. He talked about the grave human rights violations in all these regions which have been seeking to break free from the yoke of slavery of the Punjabi Muslim-dominated Pak Army.
While remaining strictly within the confines of diplomatese, the Prime Minister still managed to send a strong message to the Rawalpindi G.HQ. Though the weak-hearted will read in the I-Day address from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort an unavoidable ratcheting up of the rhetoric, the change in public stance vis-à-vis Pakistan is welcome. For seventy years a peace-loving India has tried everything to placate Pakistan but it has been rudely rebuffed.
Since India cannot, will not, ever part with Kashmir, it is only time that something new was tried — and tried to make Pakistan understand the futility of wasting its men and money on a misadventure which is doomed to fail, come what may. Modi has signaled that Pakistan will have to pay for its fanning of trouble in the Valley. Pakistan is riven with several insurrectionist movements of varying intensities. Balochistan, which accounts for 45 percent of the total area of Pakistan, to POK, Sindh, etc., remain unsettled due to the suppression of the peoples’ basic civil rights. Balochs want to break free from Islamabad, refusing to be cowed down by the military might of Pakistan. But instead of setting its own house in order, Pakistan has sought to divert the poverty-ridden peoples’ attention by drumming up anti-India propaganda and day-dreaming about annexing Kashmir.
Indian prime ministers have known of the Achilles’ heel of Pakistan all along but have refrained from openly exploiting it to embarrass the hostile neighbour. International human rights groups have regularly spoken of the atrocities committed by the Pakistani security forces against Balochs and other ethnic groups resisting the draconian dictatorship of the Rawalpindi G.HQ. Human rights activists are bound to feel energised by the support extended by the Indian Prime Minister on Monday.
Modi cleverly contrasted the Indian reaction to the barbarism of terrorists with that of Pakistan. While Pakistan glorified terrorists, calling them martyrs, India believed in humanity. There were tears in every Indian’s eyes when two years ago 130 school children were killed in a terrorist attack in Peshawar, he noted. But Pakistan celebrates when innocent Indians are killed in terrorist attacks. It also glorified terrorists as martyrs.
Clearly, Modi had in mind the huge diplomatic community, which turned up in strength on Monday morning to hear him address the nation for the third time since becoming prime minister. He weaved in the reference to Balochistan, Gilgit, POK, at the fag end of his rather long address in which he read out the laundry list of small and big things he had done for the sake of the poor and the disadvantaged. Since last week when he first drew the world’s attention to the human rights excesses in Pakistan’s hot spots, the PM said, several leading lights from these areas had thanked him, expressing gratitude for taking note of their terrible plight at the hands of the Pak security forces.
The ongoing trouble in Kashmir which has remained tense since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani framed the references to Balochistan, Baltistan and POK in the PM’s address. Without doubt, the Pakistani security establishment is bound to misread Modi’s stern message as a challenge to war. Though it is nothing of the sort, it nonetheless signals a more robust approach with the objective of ending Pakistan’s mischief in Kashmir. A day earlier, India had most forthrightly rebuffed Pakistan’s audacious offer to send supplies to the people of Kashmir, with the MEA spokesperson retorting: “… India and others in the region have already received enough of Pakistan’s trademark exports — international terrorists, cross-border infiltrators, weapons, narcotics and fake currency…”.
These words are wasted on the generals in Rawalpindi who have fattened themselves on a rich diet of anti-Indianism. But Modi on Monday morning from the unlikely podium at the Red Fort may have given them something to chew on. We only hope they can digest it well. Otherwise it can result in a huge headache for Pakistan.