An event well managed
What prompted Modi’s Lahore trip
It’s getting to be a week and the analysts have not stopped speculating what prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break all protocol and create a record of sorts by air dashing to Lahore to personally greet Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his birthday, December 25, and participate in the extended wedding celebrations of Sharif’s grand-daughter.
There is no doubt that Modi, an event manager par excellence, in the words of his one-time benefactor and mentor L K Advani, had succeeded for a while to divert attention from the bad press his government was getting on account of the DDCA cricket scandal that broke out sucking into it Modi’s most presentable face Arun Jaitley. Otherwise this unusual act of this proud RSS pracharak makes neither diplomatic, nor political nor trade and economic sense.
Apart from other things the timing was inopportune. While concluding his election campaign in Bihar, BJP president Amit Shah had warned that if Modi lost fire crackers would be burst in Pakistan. That actually happened because three days after the Bihar results came Diwali and Nawaz Sharif flew all the way to Karachi to ostensibly participate in the Diwali celebrations of his Hindu countrymen and did join in bursting crackers. Call it a coincidence, but this was the first time ever, Nawaz Sharif, whose party the Muslim League and his Punjab chief minister brother Shabaz Sharif are widely acknowledged patrons of Jihadi mullahs, killing and raping the Hindus, Christians, Ahmediyas and even Shias, had most inexplicably donned a secular cap.
Be that as it may, Modi’s air dash to Lahore has left everyone a bit nonplussed and the rapturous response of his party the BJP and its top leaders, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh et al, is even more bewildering. Rajnath at least in a moment of candour, admitted in a public meeting in Lucknow a day after, “We were all surprised…. Whatever he (PM Modi) did yesterday was commendable. Perhaps it has never been observed, this type of diplomacy, around the world.”
In mid-2013 when it looked almost certain that defying all critics the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would carry on with his mission to improve relations with Pakistan and was about to meet the Pakistan Prime Minister at the United Nations, whilst that effort was marred by five Army jawans being killed by the Pakistani forces on the Indo-Pak border, Rajnath as the BJP president immediately organised a public meeting at Ramlila Grounds here in Delhi and demanded of Singh to make a public commitment not to meet his Pakistani counterpart at the United Nations General Assembly annual meet. “You declare today that there will be no talks with Nawaz Sharif…If this Government was not so weak Pakistan would not have dared to attack Indian posts. “
It’s been 19 months since India has had the fortune of being led by a “strong and effective” leader but there is no let up in Pak incursions on our border or sending terrorists into Kashmir and yet the Prime Minister rushes to greet Nawaz Sharif on his birthday while the BJP is drum beating on the streets calling it a master stroke of diplomacy. On the contrary the cross border incursions and firing from across the border has only gone up according to official figures.
Sushma Swaraj our current External Affairs minister, true to her diplomatic calling turned poetic on hearing of Modi’s dash to Lahore and used her Twitter handle to welcome the move saying, That’s like a statesman. Padosi se aise hi rishte hone chahiyen (This is the kind of relations we should have with our neigbbours).” . Just a few days before she went to Islamabad and was the picture of bonhomie and camaraderie with Nawaz Sharif’s mother using her chaste Punjabi. How very heart warming!
Is this the same Sushma and the same Pakistan about which Sushma then the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, had said in January, 2013, “We should take revenge. If we don’t get back his (Army jawan Hemraj)’s head we should behead 10 Pakistanis and present these to Hemraj’s widow.” A Sholaysque: Gabbar Singh tum ek maroge hum das marenge!
By 2013 the UPA government had lost much of its shine and Modi was the rising star whose word was Gospel truth. So he got away in May 2013 by saying, “They are beheading our soldiers and we are serving them chicken biryani. People have lost all faith and trust in this (UPA) Government.” He was alluding to a private visit by the then Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to Ajmer Sharif and as part of the protocol he was hosted a lunch by Manmohan Singh here in Delhi.
Soon after winning the 2009 general elections when Manmohan Singh was at the height of his popularity, he went to attend the 15th heads of state summit of non-aligned nations at Egyptian seaside resort Sharm El Sheikh where he and the then Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani attempted to bury the hatchet and thrashed out a joint declaration of peace and fraternity saying that “Both leaders agreed that the real challenge is development and the elimination of poverty. Both leaders resolved to eliminate those factors which prevented the two countries from realising their full potential. Both agreed to work to create an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence, while reaffirming their resolve to promote regional cooperation and towards this end decided that the foreign secretaries of both the countries should meet as often as necessary.” This is precisely what Modi has now worked out with Nawaz Sharif six years too late
Then the former Minister of External Affairs in the Vajpayee government Yashwant Sinha spit fire in Parliament at Manmohan Singh saying, “Waters of the seven seas will not be able to wash the shame” brought on the country through this flawed initiative. The distinction between the aggressor and the victim has been completely obliterated” This when the joint statement acknowledged terrorism as the chief threat and biggest obstacle to peaceful good neighbourly relations between the two countries.
Has Modi achieved more now that he is gladly despatching his foreign secretary to Islamabad?
It is left only to a NDA ally and BJP’s Hindutva partner for last three decades the Shiv Sena and its mouthpiece Saaamna to ask the BJP the relevant question, “If the Congress Prime Minister had dropped into Karachi or Lahore, would the BJP have celebrated the visit the same way it is doing now?” Sadly for Manmohan Singh, his own party the Congress hardly backed him. In fact three were many in the Congress party who feared that Singh’s initiative to restore normal relations with Pakistan would provide the BJP an opportunity to attack the ruling party and score a point with the hardline Hindutuva brigade. That had to and did happen anyway.
Per se this is a welcome move. Surely we should have good neighbourly relations with our neighbours and India being the larger and more stable country has to take the first step. But why do the BJP and its leaders become suddenly aware of India’s neighbourly responsibility only after coming to power?