EDITORIAL: India’s hysteria

KARACHI (Dawn/ANN) - It may only be a magazine cover, but it is emblematic of a new, nasty and unfortunate trend in India: vilifying Pakistan, attacking its leaders and even questioning this country’s very existence.

It may only be a magazine cover, but it is emblematic of a new, nasty and unfortunate trend in India: vilifying Pakistan, attacking its leaders and even questioning this country’s very existence.

Clearly, the Indian magazine India Today was aiming for a controversial statement in putting Gen Raheel Sharif on its cover with a faux imprint of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hand across the general’s face. But some of that provocativeness was undone by the accompanying cover story, which concludes: “By raising Balochistan, Modi has succeeded in blunting Pakistan’s offensive on Kashmir and also addressed the public demand for a strong answer. But it has limited tactical utility … Modi has shown that he is capable of thinking out of the box. But he has to be careful not to be boxed in by his actions.” A modicum of sense, then, even in the midst of nonsense. Yet, the coarsening and hardening of anti-Pakistan rhetoric in India is an unmistakable trend.

It seems India once again has a Pakistan problem of its own making and its own imagination. From government ministers alluding to Pakistan as hell to artists coming under pressure, and even facing legal trouble, for speaking sensibly about this country, India is seemingly gripped by an anti-Pakistan rage.

Contrast that with what has become the mainstream sentiment about India in Pakistan. While the violence in India-held Kashmir and the Modi government’s belligerence has elicited over-the-top reactions from some sections here, gone are the days when India was the unshakeable centre of political discourse in Pakistan.

All major political parties want peace with India — even with a right-wing BJP government if it is willing to act sensibly and rationally — while few major segments of the population can be mobilised politically purely on anti-India rhetoric. The military too has evolved into recognising that the domestic security threat is bigger and more urgent a challenge than competition with India. To be sure, if India instigates, sections of state and society here are more than willing to respond. And there remains undeniably a terrorism problem that plagues the Pakistan-India relationship. Yet, what is on display in India and the seeming eagerness with which hateful anti-Pakistan rhetoric is both being spread by the mainstream media there and lapped up by large sections of the public is unprecedented for periods not involving hot, military conflict. Far too many in India are seemingly uncomfortable with the very idea of Pakistan.

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