As Indian national elections are drawing closer, the ruling party is trying its utmost to retain power and for the purpose the most important emotional factor in the country, rivalry with Pakistan, is being exploited to the hilt.
India is all set to hold general elections in April-May this year and the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is facing an uphill task to remain in power as the performance of the party in the last five-year has not been up to the expectation of the majority of Indians and is not reflective of the promises the party made to the people before the last election in 2014.
A deadly militant attack in the Pulwama district of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), which killed at least 50 security forces personnel, has set the ground for the BJP and Indian media to blame Pakistan. While blaming someone, even your arch-rival, after a terrorist attack is surprising and it becomes quite intriguing when the blame is put officially by one state on another state and that too almost instantaneously. It might be remembered that India charged Pakistan for the Pulwama attack almost instantaneously, without knowing who had claimed its responsibility and who might possibly be behind it. While it is very difficult to name the attackers at this moment, there is no doubt that the ruling BJP has got the most important incident in hand to vituperate, intimidate and threaten Pakistan, so as to exploit the anti-Pakistan feelings, which have traditionally been extremely strong in the country. The obvious purpose of the BJP is to win as many Indian voters as possible, particularly by appealing to the extremist sections of society.
On his part, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has quite equivocally told the Indian leadership that an unimaginable response would be given to any military misadventure by the Indian forces against Pakistan by making the Pulwama attack a pretext. PM Khan simultaneously offered India that Islamabad was ready to extend any cooperation to Indian authorities in connection with investigating the Pulwama attack. However, the BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has almost rejected the offer and vowed that the time has come to “teach Pakistan a lesson for its sponsorship of terrorism in India.” Therefore, any precision surgical strikes that have a symbolic value from the Indian security forces inside the border of Pakistan cannot be ruled out. However, it is debatable that whether the Indian forces really have a capacity to make any such operation within Pakistani territory.
The timing of the Pulwama attack raises many questions. First, the taking place of the attack just a couple of months before the extremely important national elections is especially noteworthy. As very rightly stated by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that why Pakistan would launch such a terrorist attack inside Indian territory when the region generally was getting relatively stabilized with the scale of terrorism in Pakistan reducing significantly. Moreover, the insurgent Afghan Taliban are engaged in an extensive talks with the United States.
It is unfair to defend or blame someone without having evidence but it is very important to understand that only those can launch an attack, get maximum advantage out of it. Keeping this age-old knowledge in view, Pakistan could ill-afford to have planned and supported the Pulwama attack, because the direct blame would have fallen on Islamabad. Whereas, the utmost advantage for such a situation would have been taken by the extremist Hindu nationalist BJP. Thus, launching an attack to give Pakistan’s arch-rival India’s ruling BJP a pretext to exploit the upcoming elections is tantamount to inviting trouble, which Islamabad cannot be expected to have done.
On the other hand, the launching of the attack by Pakistani Kashmiri’s inside the high-security IOK is almost impossible as Delhi has completely closed the Line of Control with Pakistan by heavily manning and mining the dividing line. So, successfully moving such a huge cache of explosives within the high-security zone has made the role of the Indian forces and their capacity profoundly questionable.
So it cannot be a surprise that the ruling BJP may have orchestrated the Pulwama attack to use it as a peg to build its election campaign around it by using anti-Pakistan sentiments in India. Why the BJP would do so is quite important a question to ask. This fundamentally has two reasons. Firstly, the political future of the BJP is at stake. Secondly, the BJP, by nature, is an extremist and violent organization whose very raison d’être was anti-Muslim and Hindu revivalism
Since 2014, the BJP in its four and a half years in the government has taken a number of extreme steps against Muslims in almost all fields to make them feel they have been part of a Hindu-dominant country and to make them believe that irrespective of the equal political and constitutional rights of Muslims, like all other Indians, it is practically a Hindu state, governed by the values and norms of Hinduism, rather than by democratic values.
In fact, the history of the BJP and its forerunner organizations, like the RSS, shows that the very raison d’être of the movement was to make India a declared Hindu state and ban Muslims from every walk of life in a bid to subjugate them. The RSS, with its doctrine of Hindutva, was vehemently against the creation of Pakistan by ‘vivisecting’ Mahabarata (Mother India as considered by Hindu inhabitants of India). The BJP has been exploiting anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan sentiments of extremist Hindus to win elections. In order to stir up anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan feelings, the BJP needed some incident and event. In this backdrop, the Pulwama attack can be understood. This has been the very reason that in the last more than four and a half years in the government, the PM Modi has not launched a serious effort to improve relations with Pakistan by using the pretext that Islamabad has been sponsoring terrorism on India’s soil. The fundamental reason is that by improving its relations with Pakistan, the BJP would negate its very fundamental belief which may not be possible for the party leadership unless it is bold enough to base its future politics on some other agenda and arguments and not on anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan rhetoric and actions. Delhi, and particularly the PM Modi government, has used the pretext of Pakistan supporting terrorism to resonate with the US-led global war on terrorism argument and Washington’s complaints about Pakistan’s role in mopping up certain regional militant groups, like the Afghan Taliban. Remember, Washington has rarely accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism but has mostly been complaining about Islamabad’s insufficient support to quell international terrorism. So, to what an extent stirring up anti-Pakistan feelings among the extremist Hindu population of India by the BJP could be effective for all us is yet to be seen. However, this strategy does not augur well for the future of BJP and India.