Throwing Away Soft Power

India has chosen its enemy and become like it.

Written by Khaled Ahmed | Published:October 29, 2016 12:52 am
pakistani actors ban, Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan, shah rukh khan, ae dil hai mushkil, anushka sharma, karan johar, ms dhoni movie, ali zafar, dear zindagi movie, ali zafar dear zindagi, pakistani actors controversy, karan johar pakistani actors, karan johar fawad khan, fawad khan images, mahira khan images, entertainment photos, indian express, indiane express news Pakistani actor Fawad Khan. Indian movies were creating good bilateral vibes while offering entertainment that Pakistani movies couldn’t provide. (File)

India’s street has decreed that Pakistani actors will not act in Indian movies. In reaction, Pakistan has taken down all the Indian movies and the cinema halls are getting ready to become shopping plazas once again.

Warmongers are happy in Pakistan. Indian movies were creating good bilateral vibes while offering entertainment that Pakistani movies couldn’t provide. There’s nothing to moan about the decline of film-making in Pakistan. Globalisation tends to squeeze less efficient markets. Decades ago, Hollywood made European film-making redundant by importing European actors, just like India.

What Indian mobs and government are killing is the “soft power” of India. The Indian film industry was India’s power because Mumbai saw Pakistan not as an enemy state but as a market and made flicks that won the hearts and minds of Pakistan. Absent the market, Indian movies will go back to pandering to nationalism and lose in quality.

After the cinema halls vanish in Pakistan, hard Islam will make it even more dangerous for India.

The book to read on this is Filming the Line of Control: The Indo-Pak Relationship through the Cinematic Lens, edited by Meenakshi Bharat and Nirmal Kumar (Routledge 2008). The movies not allowed into Pakistan but watched on smuggled video cassettes featured Indian commandos defeating the Pakistan army and carrying away Muslim beauties helplessly in love with their derring-do. The content made you hate India. Veer Zaara (2004) was friendly but contained the insult that no Pakistani could have missed: A Hindu hero (Shah Rukh Khan) ensnares a Muslim beauty (Preity Zinta). It recalled Henna (1991) which had caused Pakistan’s state-owned TV to react, which produced something containing the fervent attraction of Hindu beauties to the charms of Lashkar-e-Taiba warriors who despise them till suddenly everything changes upon the heroine seeing the light of Islam and converting to “the only true faith”.

In 2002, Pakistan was traumatised when the ruling clerical alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, closed down its cinema houses. All musicians and makers of musical instruments — for centuries a part of the Pushtun culture — either accepted their pauperised new state or ran down to Punjab.

Pakistan TV stepped into the vacuum, its war dramas showing the routine nubile Kashmiri Hindu girl smitten with the mujahideen-type Pakistani warrior who shows sexual restraint contrasting starkly with the base cunning of her “bodi”-sporting Brahmin father. Pakistani films too did this including one in which veteran actor Yusuf Khan slaughters hundreds of Hindus and covers the screen with gore. Result? Pakistani film went down in the 1980s and never got up again.

The conversation on TV channels on both sides threatens to overtake the cinema. As the book says: “Right wing politics has always seen mass media as propagating conservative ideas of nationalism and patriotism. And Pratibha Advani, daughter of BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani, did produce the documentary, Ananya Bharati, stressing the role of Hindi films in promoting patriotism.”

In Pakistan, the feature film can’t make a comeback because of the tightening of the ideological noose, not so much by the state as by the aggressive clergy and their non-state killers. Pakistani actors fired by India will not find a niche back home because the cinema-houses will convert to plazas. With loudspeakers blaring the latest doomsday warning from the clergy, people will claw at entertainment and find only contraband CDs of dubious content.

India has chosen its enemy and has become like him. By throwing away its soft power in favour of religion and nationalism it has lost something that the BJP’s man in the street can’t realise. The consequences have been spelled out by many good Indians who can foresee the coming spiritual blight. Democracy and India’s constitution will finally suggest self-correction; Pakistan is feeling the bite of correction administered by global reaction. Maybe the good days will return.

Shekhar Gupta in Business Standard mourned India’s old “soft power”: “The night before Atal Bihari Vajpayee was to leave for Lahore in February 1999, his office was frantic. How to reach film star Dev Anand in the middle of the night? Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif was a pucca Dev Anand fan. Anyway, another Dev Saab fan was roused to reach him and ask if he could reach in time to travel with Vajpayee on the bus, which he cheerfully did. Sure enough, his arrival became the highlight of that visit. The showman charmed politicians, elites, common Pakistani media, and took TV cameras to the exact spot in his college where he (supposedly) kissed a girl for the first time: in the conservative early-1940s, of course.”

 

The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek’ Pakistan

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  1. A
    Ashok
    Oct 30, 2016 at 7:00 pm
    I have always admired and supported your views Mr. Khaled. But not this one. We have exercised the soft power repeatedly and we have been gifted with Kargil, Parliament attack, IC814, 26/11, Pathankot and recently Uri. And you really think, if we continued to exercise this so called soft power, we would not be getting any more of this treatment from stan. Their disdain for us has been shown repeatedly and hunger for Indian blood has been on proud display again when they dismembered body of an Indian soldier yesterday. You are saying, soft power will work with this country? As for the other countries, lip service and shedding crocodile tears for us after every terrorist attack follows. That is the only gain India as had. I am an ardent reader of stan dailies and follow TV news. There is no hint of introspection. Even if there is, they are labeled as RAW sponsored. Even your opposing stani readers label you as a RAW agent and you know that. You know, you will be torn apart if you are caught by these people. For you to say, India has to reverse the aggressive posture and revert back to being soft, is as good as suggesting to surrender. You show the way Mr. Khaled. go to stan and surrender and live among the hungry tigers who will understand the language of soft power and reciprocate appropriately. Then if you survive that, please come back and write this same article again. This is my challenge to you. Prove me wrong.
    Reply
    1. A
      Aditya
      Oct 29, 2016 at 4:20 am
      Good and evil cannot co-exist peacefully, side by side. India says "We are good, that is secular, liberal and will allow artists from stan to work and realize success through Bollywood. stan says " We are (evil), we do not believe in secularism and will keep cancelling visas of Indian artists let alone provide any tangible platform to them". An evil wants good to stay good and not turn evil. Nope. That is a no brainer.
      Reply
      1. V
        Vidhu
        Oct 29, 2016 at 3:28 am
        There is nothing like soft when it comes to power. Soft power, if at all existed, clearly failed in past 70 years. Orelse situation would not have been what it is today.
        Reply
        1. P
          Pulkit
          Oct 29, 2016 at 3:54 am
          We have had non-congress govt earlier too. During tenure of ABV both nations cane closer to war. This time, though, hate s and stan is more intense. Probably because country is being run for the first time by Nationalist Patriots NPs !!!!
          Reply
          1. J
            Jaideep Ahuja
            Oct 29, 2016 at 5:50 am
            A very well written and timely article. The so called patriots do not realise what they would lose by losing India's soft power.
            Reply
            1. J
              Jaideep Ahuja
              Oct 29, 2016 at 12:30 pm
              This is exactly what the writer is talking about. By emulating the stanis we may become like them. That is a scary thought when people are scared to voice their opinion for fear of death. stan has come to such a p as their govt did not put down the religious zealots when they were raising their head. Today these religious zealots have become terrorists that are trying to takeover stan. If we do not tame our religious zealots we also might face the same consequence.
              Reply
              1. A
                Agrippa -
                Oct 30, 2016 at 11:28 am
                Khaled Ahmed is a very reputed stani journalist who is showing you a mirror - how much stani like you (India) have become .lt;br/gt;India has chosen its enemy and become like it.lt;br/gt;Read and understand the article.
                Reply
                1. A
                  avatar
                  Oct 30, 2016 at 4:22 pm
                  India has chosen its enemy and become like it- Ahmed is wrong. An eye for eye will make world blind but if in first place you do not allow s or Chinis to make you blind. No need for world to go blind. If you STOP criminal than you do not become criminal. If you turn other cheek then you get butchered, that's what Lord Krishna said to Arjun.STOP EVIL.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Hindus can never be murderous muslas.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Why muslas want Hindus to be cowards for ever and tell PM Modi to be Pruthviraj Chauhan? If Pruthviraj would not have been this dangerous ic ignoble than there would not have been stan Banglistan nd millions of muslas in Bharat.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Stupid fallacious logic is destructive to Hindus. Stay on course BJP.
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    Ajay
                    Oct 29, 2016 at 3:24 am
                    Dev Anand is no more. Fawad Khan is taking place of Dev Anand and Indians are dying to see him.
                    Reply
                    1. G
                      Gurvinder
                      Oct 29, 2016 at 4:09 am
                      One can not ignore the time. What has really happened can not be ignored. That is not imaginary. At least since 1857, people of both countries have lived together for next 90 years. Riots organized by Jinnahs Direct Action Day and during parion do not portray the complete picture. People of both countries fought together for Independence. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt; First British and then American influence cast their shadow on relations between people of both countries. Now when both are waning, is it not the time to build bridges again? lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt; CPEC makes it a compulsion for China that relations between 2 nations are cordial. Any conflict will make CPEC a collateral damage.
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                      1. S
                        saroj
                        Oct 29, 2016 at 3:38 am
                        The so called soft power is not working in stan, in stan Saudi Arabia has soft power. That is really working. In stan soft power can work only if its start with Islam and end with violence. There are some people in stan that are rational and that is not because of soft power of India.
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                        1. n
                          nandi@swadeshi
                          Oct 30, 2016 at 6:30 am
                          Author is so sympathetic to Porkistani cause. Maybe he should return his pport and defect to Terroristan
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                          1. S
                            Sundeep Miglani
                            Oct 29, 2016 at 3:47 am
                            Well Said. It is from general public that politicians in both countries get strength. In stan, even Army organises coups with por support of public whenever there are war cries. If public in both countries have warmth towards each other, politicians do not engage in populist reactions to the situation created by extremists like Saeed, Masud and Thackerays. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt; PM Modi has followed a pragmatic approach. He exhorted people of both nation to fight poverty. Asked his party men to show restraint on publicising surgical strikes. He advised his cader not to hate Muslims.
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                            1. R
                              R. Singh
                              Oct 30, 2016 at 11:48 am
                              Hindustan, ( Not India), is using soft power.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;That is what our Dharam is.- to seek Enlightenment, not to destroy other cultures.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The author is also wrong..lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;This may not be politically correct, but in the interest of free debate :-lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Contrary to his claim-There is no such thing as " Soft " Islamlt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Wherever it has gone, it has eradicated/exterminated local cultures.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Author should address that problem, not pontificate and lecture others.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Why does he not?
                              Reply
                              1. R
                                R. Singh
                                Oct 30, 2016 at 11:41 am
                                The author, IS a stani, the editor of "Newsweek stan" !
                                Reply
                                1. S
                                  S S
                                  Oct 29, 2016 at 3:18 am
                                  Amidst war also people of both nations have not had such bitterness ever before. Terror groups of Pak under Hafiz and Masud are as much responsible for this change.
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                                  1. S
                                    SK
                                    Oct 31, 2016 at 12:58 pm
                                    The treachery is apparent between the lines of this article.A clear signal of surrender when threatened is stani national character.The appreciation of soft power is nothing but a veiled fear of India excercised by Modi Govt.Since the bluff of nuclear attack has been rejected by India,stan has nothing left except jihadis.Now they are on a free run with open army support. Since Govt and Army both have failed in understanding and facing anger of Modi Govt.stan's India policy is controlled mainly by jihadis now. stanis other than jihadis have therefore began to look shelter behind the old Indian policy of being a goody goody soft power.They also fear jihadis controlling power,hence are now lamenting their old enemy soft India vulnerable to stani jihadis. Such an article is a curse in Modi's India.
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                                    1. K
                                      kris
                                      Oct 31, 2016 at 12:44 am
                                      Get Real Mr DUMB Author.
                                      Reply
                                      1. S
                                        Shashi Patil
                                        Oct 31, 2016 at 3:07 am
                                        How dumb can the author get? And how dumb can IE get to peddle this nonsense? Indian movies will remain por, not just with s but other countries where they are screened, irrespective of whether a actor features in it or not. Why are Indian producers casting actors? Is it because of their dubious funding? Is it because the D-Company is asking them to for favors done in the past and in the future? Only those who know the truth will understand the obsession (or perhaps capitulation) of some quarters in Bollywood with stan and its various agencies, state and non-state.
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                                        1. B
                                          Bert Brech
                                          Oct 30, 2016 at 9:20 pm
                                          If "soft power" means taking hard stani terror hits and doing sweet nothing about it but singling dil-dil songs, no thanks. The time for tamasha with stanis is over.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Unless India hits back hard against stani terrorism it has no chance of survival. If stan sees that India does not have the will to strike back it will inevitably intensify terrorism in India. Terror strikes will become frequent all over India, not just in Kashmir. Separatist minded people elsewhere in India, seeing how weak the state is, will take up arms to fight it. India will collapse.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Modi has shown the will to hit back and that is a start.
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                                          1. B
                                            Bert Brech
                                            Oct 31, 2016 at 3:13 am
                                            India has a large number of grizzled chachas for whom the w interest of living is found in endlessly complicated "soft power" games and intrigues with stan. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The idea is that no matter what stan does to savage India and Indians, India must keep up the sweet talk, Track 2, Track 3 and Track 4 diplomacy, wheels within wheels, an "uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue" as the doyen of these strange gamesters, the footling fatuous fathead Mani Shankar Aiyar, once rapturously put it. It is a w way of life.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Do stani terrorists attack the Indian parliament? India must send a group of gambolling clowns to win stani hearts. Does stan behead Indian soldiers? India must send them a plane load of treacly sweets to delight stani tongues. Does stan kill nearly 200 people in an attack on Mumbai hotels? Send a large group of Bollywood actors who will walk on their hands to impress the stanis ! And so forth.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Someone like Modi who is so crude as to retaliate to terror attacks with military action spoils this delightful game. No wonder Khaled Ahmed is distraught.
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