Saturday, July 24, 2021

War mongering

The brinkmanship between India and Pakistan, which Narendra Modi led BJP has deliberately and consciously put at the centre-stage of its election campaign in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, highlights not the achievements of the Modi government but its failure at many levels. While the hostile climate within South Asia is being used to the hilt to garner votes in the name of ‘teaching Pakistan a lesson’ and by punishing the neighbouring country for ‘perpetuating terrorism’, the sad reality is that while there is little indication of Pakistan suffering in any way from the dose of belligerence, this war mongering and escalation of tensions have ended up costing India dear in terms of finances, human resource and much more. For instances, the airlines flying on international sectors including the official carrier Air India have suffered massive losses due to the closing of Pakistani airspace which has been shut for traffic to and from India ever since hostilities broke out between the two countries after the Pulwama suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14. According to reports, Air India has suffered losses to the tune of Rs 6 crore daily and amounting to a total of Rs 300 crores since February last due to extra fuel burn, cabin staff expenses and reduced flights as the long haul flights from New Delhi are taking longer to reach destinations in Europe, the Gulf and the US because of the closure of Pakistan’s airspace. Secondly, while the business between Pakistan and India has been hit marginally after the withdrawal of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan, allowing India to enhance customs duties exorbitantly on goods including fruits, cement, leather, chemicals and spices coming from Pakistan. However, this punitive action has hardly created a dent in Pakistan’s economy, which is already undergoing substantial crisis, the trade between the two countries continues to be extremely low and valued at just over 2 billion US dollars. It has very marginally hurt some business interests but has damaged the interests of consumers who have to shell out extra for procuring goods including edibles in view of the enhanced customs duties. Thirdly, and more importantly, while the BJP, spiteful of widespread criticism including the strongly worded statement by former army veterans, is unrepentantly going ahead by recklessly peddling its anti-terrorism and anti-Pakistan image and no less than prime minister is trying to project that he has managed to wipe out terrorism from the country, the facts belay the claims being made in rally after rally of the BJP leaders. In a recent rally, Modi responded to the criticism of ‘politicising terrorism and war’ by claiming to have wiped out insurgency from the country. The statistics nail this lie. According to the South Asian Terrorism Portal of the Institute for Conflict Management, 388 major acts of terrorism have taken place between 2014 and 2018. The data also points out that the death of jawans in militancy related violence and terror attacks has risen 106% in Jammu and Kashmir in the past five years. Even the home ministry’s own collated data points out to at least two “major terror strikes” in 2015 and 2016 in Indian hinterland, apart from insurgency related violence in the conflict ridden states of Kashmir, north-east and tribal areas. While it speaks about overall decline in the number of incidents of terrorism, it also admits that this has been an ongoing trend since 2011. Besides, the border hostilities have multiplied in the last five years resulting in massive casualties and displacements. Fourthly, while the false claims about non-existing achievements against terrorism are being showcased, the BJP is putting its entire weight behind a terror accused Sadhvi Pragya in Bhopal, betraying its hypocrisy and its real stand with respect to terrorism. Lastly, by deflecting attention from major issues towards war mongering and the shockingly misplaced threat of nuclear war every second day, by misappropriating the actions and valour of security forces, India is losing a great deal in terms of the vibrant democracy that is being wrecked by blatant misuse of institutions, by violating the sanctity of elections and by perpetuating a culture of hatred and insecurity. Clearly, the BJP is not only misleading, it is damaging the interests of the country and its people through its bellicose rhetoric as an electioneering tool.