A Tale of Two Prime Ministers

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modi sharifWhy the leaders of the South Asian nuclear powers could change the course of shared history

S IFTIKHAR MURSHED

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]ian Nawaz Sharif, a protege of the military dictator General Ziaul Haq, is a unique person in his own right. On June 5 he will be completing the first year of his third prime ministerial term – a feat that is unparalleled in the short but turbulent history of Pakistan.

He is undoubtedly a veteran politician who has been in the game since he joined the Pakistan Muslim League in 1976. Fortune pointed her choosy fingers along his way, and, nine years later, on April 9, 1985 he was sworn in as chief minister of Punjab. But what singles him out is that even after 38 years of political experience, he has never learnt the craft of statesmanship.

In neighboring India, the spectacular victory of Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in the recent general elections gave it an outright majority of 283 out of 543 Lok Sabha seats.

The final tally, with the addition of the electoral successes of its partners in the National Democratic Alliance, comes to an impressive 337. The last time a single political party was able to win an absolute majority was in 1984 when the Congress party, riding on the crest of a sympathy vote after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, bagged 405 seats.

Politics is a ruthless zero-sum game. This year Congress met its Waterloo in the sprawling electoral battlefields of India. It could garner no more than a paltry 46 Lok Sabha seats. This is way below the minimum of 55 needed to stake its claim as the leader of the opposition. The rout of the Congress party has three far-reaching implications. First, it signifies the rejection of dynastic political rule, or, as William Dalrymple says, it heralds the culmination of “sexually transmitted democracy” that has dominated Indian politics since 1947.

Second, it has irredeemably weakened the left. But the erosion of socialism in India has also been gradual. In the first Indian general election in 1952 the communists won overwhelmingly in Kerala. This was followed by similar victories in West Bengal and Tripura in the northeast.

Currently only Tripura, where there is an ongoing irredentist rebellion, has a leftist government headed by Manik Sarkar. In the last state elections held in February 2013, the Left Front secured 50 out of 60 seats in the Assembly. Of these 49 were won by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Similarly, at the centre, political attrition has resulted in a progressively diminishing presence of the left in the Lok Sabha.

Third, it has administered a crippling blow on Nehruvian secularism which has given way to the corresponding rise of Hindu nationalism or Hindutva as the defining theme of Indian politics. Modi is a diehard member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which he joined as a volunteer when he was only eight years old. He rose rapidly through the ranks.

In later years, his reputation as a man with “a ferocious temper and a desire to dominate and an equally ferocious work ethic and ability for efficiency” spread far and wide. As recently as August last year, the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat publicly acknowledged that “Modi is the only person who has remained rooted in the RSS ideology.”

This ideology was elaborated and defined in 1938 by Madhav Golwalkar (1906-1973), the second supreme leader of the RSS. He insisted that “the non-Hindu people” should either convert, or, be “wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment – not even citizens’ rights.”

Golwalkar was inspired by Adolf Hitler and approvingly explained that his atrocities were prompted by the need: “To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging of its Semitic race, the Jews.”

These views are strikingly similar to those of the late Maulana Maudoodi, the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who told the Munir Commission on the anti-Ahmadi disturbances in 1953: “I should have no objection even if the Muslims of India are treated in that form of government as shudras and malishes and Manu’s laws are applied to them depriving them of all share in the government and the rights of a citizen.”

Modi has never expressed even the slightest remorse on the 2002 massacre of almost 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat, a year after he became chief minister of the state. The closest he came to this was last year when he said that he pitied the agony of the Muslims as he would “a puppy being run over by a car.” During the recent elections he refused to wear a Muslim skullcap in the campaign trail saying that the gesture would be a “symbol of appeasement of the minority”.

But despite this, Modi won an impressive percentage of Muslim votes. An analyst recently observed that there are 87 constituencies with a sizable Muslim presence and 45 of these went to the BJP. Similarly, its president Rajnath Singh “won resoundingly in Lucknow where there are 400,000 Muslim voters.” This is an indicator of ‘new thinking’ among members of India’s minority community.

While India was still shell-shocked by the magnitude of the BJP victory, Nawaz Sharif lost no time in telephoning Modi and inviting him to Pakistan. Yet he initially hesitated in accepting the Indian prime minister-elect’s invitation to attend the inauguration ceremony in New Delhi. Diplomacy has evolved through the centuries. One reads about the boudoir, gunboat, mercantile or shopkeeper varieties of the profession, and, now, in Pakistan we have Raiwind diplomacy. Its hallmark is unthinking and often contradictory responses to regional and global events.

Raiwind diplomacy was born in 1999 when then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Lahore on February 20 of that year. Nawaz Sharif’s short speech on that occasion, which I regret having drafted, began with the words: “It is springtime in Lahore. The chill of winter is fading away…” Less than eight weeks later, on May 8, the Kargil crisis erupted.

Narendra Modi, who had not till then become the chief minister of Gujarat, came on Indian television and declared: “We won’t give them chicken biryani; we will respond to a bullet with a (nuclear) bomb.” It was, therefore, not surprising that the BJP’s election manifesto promised to study India’s nuclear doctrine “in detail and revise and update it to make it relevant to challenges of current times.”

The writing on the wall is that New Delhi’s long-proclaimed policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons is likely to be discarded.

Furthermore, the manifesto pledges the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution which gives special status to Indian-held Kashmir. Though Pakistan-India relations was not even a sub-theme during the election campaign, Modi’s reaction to General Raheel Sharif’s April 30 statement describing Kashmir as Pakistan’s “jugular vein” was stern: “I see these comments as highly provocative and I think they amount to interference in the internal affairs of our country.”

The hurdles along the way in the normalization of Pakistan-India relations are obvious. Even if the composite dialogue is resuscitated the entire process will be derailed if there is another terrorist incident. This is the single most important issue that Pakistan has to tackle with steely determination.

The remedy does not lie in dialogue with extremist outfits – it resides in the conclusive defeat of terrorism. Till this is achieved the country will continue to face grave internal threats and progressive external isolation. —Courtesy The News

All opinions and views expressed in columns and blogs are those of individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Caravan

theclarionindia
theclarionindiahttps://clarionindia.net
Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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