New Delhi can no longer hope to navigate between candlelight dinners with Islamabad and surgical strikes along the borders.

 Indias talk-now-slap-now show with Pakistan is ridiculousPTI
Voices Opinion Friday, October 21, 2016 - 16:32

Just when you think all the ducks have been lined and finally – finally – India and Indians including Indian politicians, people in uniform and those running the country are speaking with one voice on Pakistan, ‘kadi ninda’ strikes. To the uninitiated, that is Hindi for strict condemnation, a term for which India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh has a peculiar penchant. It sounds serious enough when a neighbourhood robber is absconding or thugs are wreaking havoc, but barely meet the basics when you are talking about Indian soldiers being burnt alive by terrorists. The minister outdid himself this week when he announced that India was ready to help Pakistan shut its terror shops. In other words, India was ready to help Islamabad kill the snakes it was breeding in its backyard (as Hillary Clinton had once speak speaking of terror outfits in Pakistan). That is like a doctor telling you s/he will happily turn off your life support, just pick a time and a date. Read here

Let us step back a little and look at the framing. Actors are supposed to act. Soldiers are expected to protect territories. Journalists are supposed to report. Diplomats are supposed to negotiate and navigate, carpenters, plumbers, lawyers and architects – all have fairly defined roles to play in a society. There is an expectation attached to the definition of work. Politicians who are elected by the free will of the people in democracies are expected to legislate, govern and ensure the country grows and prospers. For a country India’s size, that expectation includes long-term planning. All of us take our cue from politicians irrespective of whether or not we agree with them. We saw variations of this when India condemned The Uri attacks at the United Nations in New York and at the European headquarters of the world body in Geneva. The Ivy league of terrorism entered out language sending us into paroxysms of joy. Then came the let down, led by politicians. To be fair, no government agency asked Pakistani artists to leave India but unruly and indisciplined politicians (in direct contrast to men and women in uniform who are discipline-bound) decide to become actors and soldiers. The script sagged. Worse, what was an Indian soldier to think when India’s Home Minister offered help where it hurt most? 

Odd isn’t it that there are no martyrs in politicians’ homes?

It is not possible for me to say it in any simpler language than this. New Delhi can no longer hope to navigate between candlelight dinners with Islamabad and surgical strikes along the borders if it wants to be taken seriously by Indians – the rest of the world can wait. I consider myself to be adequately informed and a continuous student of geopolitics to say India is a democracy and Pakistan is not. Which is why we say and do things people in Pakistan and Pakistani actors who seek work in India cannot. There are two issues here. One, Pakistani actors cannot have their cake and eat it too – I would not expect anything more or less from myself and people whose views I respect if I were in a similar situation in a foreign country.

Yes, I would have expected solidarity from Pakistani artists when Uri happened, but I see all the difficulties that accompany such an expectation. Their predicament, take it or leave it, is not mine as a citizen of the world’s largest democracy trying to make its way in choppy seas. I am not going to loathe myself for this and do not expect my my colleagues and friends or rush to their defence needlessly when there is enough on out plate in the country beginning with a political class that is better at film scripts than running the country. In the real scheme of things, this is more important to me than whether a film is viewed or not. Political parties that call for extreme steps against artists are thugs, like those who run Pakistan. Democratic societies always marginalise extremes and this will happen in India. The same cannot be said of our belligerent neighbour for whom state of war is a survival instinct as aid and guns are linked to it. 

My problem is elsewhere in this ‘kadi ninda’ now and ‘let’s talk now’ nonsense which must stop and stop seriously. Think about this. We are calling upon the world – anyone who will listen – to isolate Pakistan hoping it will be called a terrorist state. We want the world to snap ties with them while we don’t lead the show. We call them snakes, rats, cockroaches – anything – but want to help them pull the plug on themselves. We quote anyone who distantly criticises Pakistan as evidence that our neighbour is terrible. Pakistan does not want peace with India – it is structurally, socially and politically built on this logic of war.  There are Pakistani individuals who may not agree with their state but that is their state policy. If they travel to any country including India, rules apply. A visa is a courtesy – it is not a cover for cowardice.

Finally, here’s a word for the media in India of which I am a part and a metier that defines many of my views. It has given me a livelihood, an identity and a sense of belonging and might I dare say, pride and respect. I salute the Pakistani journalist from The Dawn who stood up to power in his country by questioning them. In that country, he is an exception. In my country, a raucous media is the rule. We are free to be intelligent and stupid, scared, free, self-censored and irresponsible. Democracy is magnificent.

In the meantime, the kadi ninda factor worries me more than any other mushkil. Diplomacy and military action are not film scripts. 

Note: The views expressed are personal opinions of the author.


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