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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 11 New Delhi March 2, 2019

Twin Tasks at Crucial Hour

Sunday 3 March 2019

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

As these lines are being written, India-Pakistan relations are deteriorating fast and a war-like situation has developed. The shooting down of an F-16 Pakistani aircraft by India and the downing of a Mirage 21 aircraft by Pakistan and capturing its pilot has greatly escalated tensions between the two neighbouring countries.

The nationwide euphoria following the successful attack of the Indian Air Force on the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the demolition of its training camps in PoK and at Balakote in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan was natural. For the NDA Government and Prime Minister Modi, too, it was a political imperative to “do something” in an election year to assuage the feelings of the people outraged by the JeM attack on a CRPF convoy and killing of 49 jawans. Quite naturally, the euphoria generated by the daring of our armed forces has created a good deal of political support for Prime Minister Modi and his government because it is he who had taken the decision to strike at the terrorist camps beyond the borders of India. Equally naturally, the entire Opposition, from Rahul Gandhi to Mamata Banerjee, stood solidly behind the government.

The air attacks on Balakote and other places in Pakistan have another significance. India has sent out a message not only to Pakistan but to the world that it has the right to cross the borders and strike at the bases inside Pakistan where terrorists are being recruited, trained, armed and pushed across the LoC into India to carry out acts of sabotage and subversion. The Indian attack has come at a time when Pakistan stands in splendid isolation in the comity of nations for its sponsoring of terrorism as a state policy.

The extent of Pakistan’s isolation is clear from the fact that even its “all-weather” friend, China, has not stood by it this time on the question of declaring Masood Azhar as a terrorist. What is more significant is that even after the Indian air attack on terror bases in Pakistan, China has been remarkably restrained.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, at the end of the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of India, China and Russia at Wuzhen in China on February 27, that “We agreed to jointly combat all forms of terrorism through closer policy coordination and practical cooperation. Especially important is to eradicate the breeding grounds of terrorism and extremism.” Coming in the wake of the Pulwama massacre and the Indian retaliation on terror bases in Pakistan, the importance of the Chinese Foreign Minister’s comment cannot be over-emphasised.

What New Delhi has to keep in mind while dealing with an intransigent and belligerent Pakistan is that war is no option. If Pakistan offers talks, we should respond. Because even a “limited” or “localised” war between two nuclear-armed nations could develop its own dynamics and may get out of control any moment. The effects of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan will not be confined to these countries alone. Other countries, especially neighbouring states, will have to suffer the consequences of such a war. The highly radioactive fallout following a nuclear explosion is thrown up into the sky and is carried by wind to other, non-combatant, countries.

According to scientists and strategic experts, an India-Pakistan nuclear war will straightaway kill 21 million people. Half of the ozone layer that protects the world’s atmosphere will be destroyed and a “nuclear winter” will set in across the globe. It will totally change the world climate and endanger agriculture. According to one estimate, an Indo-Pak nuclear war will kill 2221 times more people than were killed by terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir between 2006 and 2015. These facts can be ignored at our own peril.

While rejoicing at the success of our armed forces, the people cannot, however, forget the net impact of the Modi Government on our democratic and secular polity, on our economy, on the employment situation in the past five years. Some of the major decisions taken by Modi like demonetisation and introduction of the GST led to great suffering of the people. Demonetisation hit hard the micro, small and medium industries (MSME) sector. Thousands of units in this sector closed down as a result, rendering tens of thousands of employees jobless and virtually throwing them out on the streets.

While standing solidly behind our armed forces who are defending the country, we have, at the same time, to carry on a relentless struggle in defence of democracy and secularism. Both are in danger under the present dispensation. The fascist forces represented by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar have to be decisively defeated in the coming elections. We cannot defend our freedom and sovereignty without defending our democratic and secular polity. The two battles are complementary to each other.

February 28 B.D.G.

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