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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 20, May 10, 2014

Modi Admires Obama’s Hunt for Bin Laden

Monday 12 May 2014, by M K Bhadrakumar

Three different interpretations can be given to the sensational remarks on Saturday (April 26) regarding underworld don Dawood Ibrahim by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. One, he spoke in the heat of the election battle and it could all be hot air.

But then, Modi was speaking at an exclusive media interview and not addressing a mam-moth rally of one million people chanting ‘Har, Har Modi’ where he would be speaking at the gallery. It’s well-known that his aides prepare him for what to say.

Two, he probably endeavoured to differentiate himself from the UPA Government’s policies toward Pakistan and hit hard where it hurts, namely, that Manmohan Singh Government was ’soft’ on terrorism. But then, why Dawood Ibrahim who is today way down in the ‘talking points’?

Three, he spoke with a purpose, intentionally. Which is how I see Modi’s remarks. To be sure, the Right-wing nationalists would roar with approval if Modi even hinted as much that he wouldn’t desist from staging cross-border raids—‘hot pursuit’—into Pakistani territory.

They are Modi’s staunch followers but have been biting their nails where exactly he stands vis-a-vis Pakistan. They always felt dishear-tened that India took Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent far too seriously and exercised self-restraint unwarrantedly in not optimally deploying its conventional forces for operations to gain tactical advantages vis-a-vis Pakistan. Mostly, they are weaned on the Israeli war doctrine. which provides for targeted assassinations, cross-border raids, punitive attacks, subversive acts and so on.

But the funny part is that Modi invoked America’s famously laid-back President Barack Obama who ordered the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, as his role-model.

Obama, who is touring India’s neighbourhood currently (Malaysia), would have heard about Modi’s remarks by now. Strange thoughts would have crossed Obama’s mind. Indeed, the intriguing thing is that the US feels utterly free to act with impunity when it comes to its core national security interests, but wouldn’t recommend such a mindset to others.

It’s unclear whether Modi is au fait with the strange ways power dynamics work in the contemporary world. If this is authentically how Modi’s mind works, Washington has cause to worry, because international security is in the crosshairs if a flashpoint arises and the two nuclear powers get into eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.

The most unfortunate part of Modi’s remarks would be that he slammed the door shut on any nascent hopes regarding a pragmatic approach toward settling India-Pakistan differences that were implied in his ‘back channel’ contacts so far. But that shouldn’t come as surprise, either.

The point is, Modi has openly claimed that he is hard as nail in smashing up Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism. And that threat, paradoxically, strengthens the hardline Pakistani military security establishment’s case for asymmetrical war with India.

Indeed, this may just be the alibi the GHQ in Rawalpindi needed to (re)assert its predominance over the civilian leadership in the making of Pakistan’s policies toward India. Modi’s provocative remarks may drive PM Nawaz Sharif up the wall, since the civil-military equations in Pakistan show incipient signs of strain lately. 

Ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.