STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

I sustained a minor injury from which I am recovering well, but under doctor’s advice I had to avoid focusing on computer screen for a few days. Hence the delay in this post.

Many countries in the west are post religious societies. Living here, it is sometime difficult to visualize the strong emotions that religious sentiments evoke. The world faced rise of militancy in Islam through the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIL since ‘80s. It has taken nearly 4 decades and billions of dollars to bring that scourge under control.

A similar phenomenon is emerging in India. Prime Minister Modi was elected for his 1st term for his pro business approach. Viewed as a clean efficient leader, he was preferred over Congress ridden with corruption scandals and weak leadership. Mr. Modi spiced up his appeal by taking a nationalistic Hindu position.

During his first term he was able to mobilize the whole Indian nation as an upbeat, decisive leader. The rumblings of militancy of RSS and his hard line approach in Kashmir were disturbing, but he kept it under wraps. India emerged as the main competitor to China’s economic ascent. Since then, Indian economy did start facing various challenges after his demonetization.

The campaign for his 2nd term was more reliant on revival of Hindu vita and other nationalistic themes than his economic record. After winning a massive mandate for this term, it seems Mr. Modi has lost his plot. He has donned saffron robes. Casting himself as a modern day Chandragupta Maurya, he is more focused on revival of a Hindu raj. His foot soldiers are RSS militants whose approach and tactics are reminiscent of Aryan rule attempted by Adolf Hitler. Indian economy is sputtering but has been put on the back burner. Fundamentalism is ascendant. This Raj requires subjugation of all other beliefs. Muslims in Assam are suffering a similar assault. The Sikhs, Christians and Dalits are also feeling threatened. This is not an alarmist view but a realistic  m assessment.

Soon after re-election Prime Minister Modi rescinded Article 370 of Indian Constitution and usurped autonomous Kashmir as Indian territory. This action caused a flare up of Kashmir issue. Emotions are running high. A 72 year old dispute has been unilaterally decreed by India. There was no discussions, no negotiations just brute force. The lock down of innocent Kashmiris continues into the 2nd month. The cruelty, torture, denial of basic necessities is unprecedented in 21st Century. Kashmir is one big jail. It is being criticized by media globally.

As this humongous humanitarian tragedy unfolds, the Pakistani nation has reacted  vehemently. Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Government have mounted intense diplomatic efforts against this injustice. World leaders are being approached to give them a better insight into these unforgivable atrocities. The Army Chief has given a resolute response conveying the preparedness of the forces. No efforts are being spared. The hapless Kashmiris are staring down the barrel of a gun. The dreaded spectre of an armed conflict is shaping up. Possibilities of armed resistance are real. The clouds of war are gathering.

In this hour of trial what is the bond that ties Pakistanis to the Kashmiris? It is Islam. So the Pakistanis looked at other Muslim countries for their unwavering support. Woven together as Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), it represents 1.8 billion Muslims. It has 57 member states. 26 countries are African. 24 countries are in Asia. 4 countries are trans-continental. There is one European and two South American members. OIC response is muted. Only lip service is being provided. At first glance it is disappointing.

If one analyses the underlying basis of this organisation, one understands this response better. Religious bonds weaken when realities of life hit you. There are no shared boundaries except with Iran and Afghanistan. There is no shared history in pre or post colonial era. Each nation went through their own freedom struggle. No shared culture or languages except Arabic in some countries. Out of 57 members, the most affluent ones are monarchies that have their own threats and challenges.

India has a recent historic edge. Till the dismemberment of USSR, India was aligned with the soviet bloc. This left leaning nexus had a strong appeal of many OIC members and strong diplomatic ties. Indian cultural influence has made inroads over time. Raj Kapoor, Sharukh Khan are just as popular in these states as in India! I found Indian romantic song “kucth kutcth hota hai” is a hugely popular hit in Indonesia. Dubbed Indian movies are liked globally.

After taking off the socialist robes, Indian companies have grown in size and strength wielding huge influence. Their spread and financial muscles are sizeable. Non resident Indians have achieved economic success. Successive Indian Governments have tapped into it continuously. Based on this Pakistanis have to reboot their expectations from OIC members.

The way forward for Pakistan is to mount individual state to state diplomatic efforts. Facing Modi’s onslaught is not going to be easy. PTI Government has to launch a belated effort in organising Overseas Pakistanis into well knit communities supporting their home country over a prolonged period. Short term emotional responses may give a surge to global reaction, but only sustained and consistent efforts will yield desired results.

The clouds of war gathering on the subcontinent. Global powers understand the consequences of a conflict between two nuclear armed States. Prime Minister Imran Khan has to continue his outreach to global leaders. One can just hope and pray that negotiated settlement can be reached before a bloody and devastating conflict occurs between India and Pakistan and Kashmiris are spared the blood-letting that Modi regime’s obstinate brutal regime is embarked on.

But it takes to two to tango. Prime Minister Modi’s present posturing does not give any  room to manoeuvre. He has shown no signs of abating. The present status is not very hopeful. Situation will likely go from bad to worse. A wakeup call to PM Modi is absolutely necessary to prevent this disaster from happening.

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