Speaking in Gujarat the other day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleged a drawing room conspiracy by a set of very distinguished Indians and an equally distinguished Pakistani (former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri), and a parallel one on social media by a not-so-well-known or distinguished Pakistani (Sardar Arshad Rafique). The aim of this alleged conspiracy was, according to the PM, to give the Congress a victory in Gujarat, and not just that, specifically to install Ahmed Patel, a Muslim Congressman, as chief minister.
There has been much commentary on the attempt by the Prime Minister to stitch together a few circumstances to spin a tall story with a few facts. Even the former Prime Minister, finding himself dragged into this cloak and dagger story, was angered enough to issue a no-nonsense statement. But what about the hypothesis? Assuming the Pakistani “deep state” has the capability to change the political weather over India, do generals across the border prefer the Congress over the BJP?
In fact, there is not much love lost in Pakistan for either Nehru or Gandhi, even among liberal Pakistanis. The two Indian leaders are seen much in the same way as Jinnah is on this side of the border. Congress, with its talk of secularism and Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai rhetoric – however shallow or strategic, as the 1980s and 1990s ably demonstrated — has always been a finger in Pakistan’s eye, the party that first thwarted Jinnah’s ambitions, then became a symbol of why Pakistan’s raison d’etre was at best shaky. Then came the 1971 war, Bangladesh and Mrs Indira Gandhi role in the war, which totally finished off any leftover affection for the Congress party in Pakistan. Rahul Gandhi’s boast in 2006 left a further bad taste in the mouth.
The BJP, on the other hand, represents the self-fulfilling prophecy our neighbour has always had about post-Independence India – a Hindu nation that can never be at peace with Muslims who rejected Pakistan and stayed on after Partition, that will do everything to marignalise them and keep them economically and socially backward. In short, every justification for the idea of Pakistan.
For every India-hating-bashing-baiting Pakistani. the sweeping BJP victory in 2014, the elevation of the leader who was Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002 as Prime Minister, and the aggressive brand of Hindutva that has been unleashed across the country is that self-fulfilling prophecy come true. A “deep state” in Pakistan with the capabilities with which the BJP leadership has credited it, would hardly want to change this arrangement.
Over the last three years, the Muslim and Dalit-targeting cow vigilantism, the moves to outlaw beef-eating, the manufactured outrage over the even more manufactured idea of ‘love jihad’, and more recently the row over Padmavati, the killing of Pehlu Khan, Junaid and Afzarul, the elevation of Yogi Adityanath as UP chief minister, have all been received with barely concealed glee across the border. Every such incident has confirmed to those across the border that India’s so-called secularism was always a chimera.
The regularity of these incidents, the government’s inability or disiniclination to bring the perpetrators to book, and the ease with which the leadership looks the other way, or shrugs them away as isolated cases, have helped Pakistan shred the imagined political superiority of Indians that came with being the world’s largest democracy.
Back in 2008, I recall a dinner table conversation at the home of a Pakistani academic in Islamabad about what then seemed like an imminent take over of the capital by the Taliban. They were already running Swat at the time. Bombs were going off everywhere. Life was uncertain. The academic, or perhaps it was his wife, asked: “If there’s a Taliban takeover of Pakistan, there will be a lot of people here knocking on India’s doors. Will they open the doors for us?” Perhaps it was not a serious question, and truth to tell, I laughed it off because I did not have an answer even then. But I remember feeling chuffed that a group of enlightened Pakistanis could even think that way.
I don’t think anyone will ask that kind of question anymore. Instead they ask: “Well, what’s the difference?” Now instead, a Pakistan court wants to know why idols have disappeared from the ancient Katas Raj temple. Who would have thought?
Then there is Kashmir. All that has happened in that state in the last three years, and especially since July 2016, has provided Pakistan’s TV channels with fodder on “maqbooza Kashmir” (“Occupied Kashmir”) for years.
Prime Minister Modi’s announcement from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day in 2016 that India supports the people in Gilgit-Baltistan and in Balochistan who are demanding ‘azadi’ was music to the ears of the real Pakistani “deep state”, not the one that met at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house or put up FB posts. That this BJP government wants no talks with Pakistan is for Pakistan’s generals just what the doctor ordered, because it helps to keep alive the dangers from “dushman humsaya” (“neighbouring enemy”), and thus keeps them in business. Vajpayee was a disappointment in that sense for the Pakistani security establishment. He was too much of a dove, and spouted Urdu poetry to boot.
So no, it does not seem logical that the Pakistani “deep state’ is rooting for Congress in Gujarat, or for an Ahmed Patel in the Chief Minister’s ‘gaddi’. The generals, or the Pakistan Army “DG”s might be actually disappointed if Gujarat voters were to reject the BJP and vote in the Congress.