India’s new prime minister provokes alarm and fascination in its neighbourhood.
Now that the BJP’s Narendra Modi has been elected India’s new prime minister, Pakistani commentators are speculating about how he will behave towards Pakistan, and vice versa. Politicians are up to their usual funny tricks and some are using Modi as a bugbear to become popular, pledging tit-for-tat for Modi’s declared and undeclared challenges to Pakistan.
The media becomes partisan when it comes to India and whips up the ugly feelings inculcated by textbooks, which often recoil on Pakistan because no one outside Pakistan believes what Pakistan says. When Modi said, “There will be no talks with Pakistan until attacks on India end,” the Pakistani media rejoined with “What attacks?” and “What about your attacks on Muslims?”
Cursing Modi in Pakistan is considered morally plausible because of what happened in 2002 to the Muslims of Gujarat. The world rounded on him, and America and some countries in Europe placed him under a visa ban. Hence, when you curse him in Pakistan, no one in the world will call it politically directed hyperbole. But if someone in Pakistan says he is pained by the plight of Muslims in India, he is leaning on double standards.
Frances Harrison, a former BBC correspondent, in her recent book, Still Counting the Dead: Survivors of Sri Lanka’s Hidden War, writes: “A damning report by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, the largest Muslim party, detailed 241 attacks on Muslims during 2013. These attacks included mosques being stoned, Muslim-owned shops being struck by Buddhist monks, calls for the hijab to be outlawed and a successful campaign against halal meat. Four-letter obscenities against Allah have been scrawled on mosque walls and pigs’ heads drawn on their exteriors or even tossed inside.”
TV anchors call in representatives from religious parties to showcase the hatred of India in general and the BJP in particular: friendship — read trade — with India is immoral, since the Kashmir issue is outstanding; India has to be held accountable, not mollified. Some non-state actors are so powerful they can scare any government by staging a “long march” against Islamabad’s efforts to trade freely with India. They have their own foreign policy and can enforce it, knowing that the government will have to own it through denial.
It is deemed crowd-pulling to respond manfully to the “Modi challenge”, as Pakistan’s impetuous Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan did when he heard that Modi had promised during the continued…