General (Retd) Mirza Aslam Beg
These are very challenging times for the political leadership of India and Pakistan “to actualize the meaning of change into true democratic ethos,” which the people so desperately demand. The catalyst for change has already been identified in India. He is Narendra Modi, the prime minister-designate, whose assets are: The economic miracle in Gujarat; humble family background and no lust for money. He is a symbol of hope and aspirations of the poor and deprived people of India. Yet there are some drags on him, if he fails to keep his negative tendencies under check.
Modi is a known Muslim hater. His hands are soaked with the blood of over 2,000 Muslims of Gujarat, yet his brutality fades into insignificance when compared with the crime of the Indian National Congress party, which has killed over 100,000 men, women and children of Kashmir with impunity. The crime continues unabated even now. It is argued that Modi has established strong relations with Israel, which may result into greater threat to Pakistan, but it is nothing when compared with the huge spy network the Congress government established in Afghanistan in 2005 with full support of CIA, Mossad and Nato. This spy network played havoc with Pakistan’s security. In comparison, Modi would prove to be a much lesser evil than the Congress governments of the past. I have the feeling that Modi would feel the remorse on his act of crime in Gujarat and may revert to God, as Ashoka did after the brutal killings in battle at Kalinga in BC262 to repent and to seek forgiveness. Thus, Modi would be honouring “Ashoka’s tri-murti”, the emblem of India, by following the honour code of Ashoka the Great, consolidating the Indian diversity into one cohesive mass, as the solid base of peace and stability for the entire region.
Modi believes in Hindutva, which is a mix of Hinduism and compulsive nationalism. He draws his strength from militant organizations, like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an organization rabidly opposed to secular democratic ethos. Modi has “to restrain his neo-fascist proclivities, and not to let his jingoism dictate his policies.” He is expected to overcome his weaknesses “and reveal in time whether cult and behaviour match” or otherwise.
Kashmir is the core issue that needs to be settled for peace and stability in the region, whereas Modi is not ready to compromise on Kashmir, or concede “even an inch of Indian territory” yet it is Kashmir, which will decide Modi’s future because the key to regional peace lies with him. He must remember that for the last three decades Afghanistan has served as the “strategic base of resistance” for the freedom movements in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria and Kashmir. After the withdrawal of occupation forces from Afghanistan by end of this year, the jihadis would turn towards Kashmir, as they did in 1990 after the Soviet withdrawal, raising the threshold of confrontation between India and Pakistan to a dangerous level. Before that happens, the two countries have to find an amicable and peaceful solution of the Kashmir issue. There is no other alternative.
The 2013 elections in Pakistan have thrown up a new party under Imran Khan as the third largest, which has formed its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, while winning some good number of seats in Punjab and Sindh. The two national parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) — have withdrawn to their bases in Punjab and Sindh. Thus, Imran Khan has given a lead to Modi, rejecting the patrimonial dictatorship with promise to eradicate corruption, poverty, injustice and social discriminations. However, unlike Modi, Imran Khan lacks achieving economic miracle in the province he rules and has so far not presented a clear agenda for the future to fulfill the given mandate. In fact, he is looking for shortcuts to power, which may turn out to be politically harmful for him.
Sharif brothers are trying to turn over the economy and bring prosperity, top downwards. It may be possible in the long term but the short term demands of the suffering masses do not seem to be in harmony with the long-term goals of the rulers. Corruption, poverty, social disparities and security, which are the damning problems of the broad masses, are not being addressed on priority. The stark reality that catches the eye and affects our minds and hearts is the big difference in outlook in life, which exists between Modi and our leaders, who are filthy rich, trying to get richer, while Modi with a humble social background lives a simple life in harmony with the suffering masses, whose lives he promises to lift. In fact, Modi has embraced our Islamic traditions of austere living, whereas our rulers are basking under the sunshine of the exploitive capitalism.
However, the political leadership on both sides of the divide is facing difficult challenges, which could be overcome with a clear standing of the word ‘change’ sweeping South Asia. Our leaders have to look to the future, because it is not possible “to build a sound and promising future, over the gaping graves of grievous past” — Aijaz Zaka. And the first step in that direction, therefore, would be for Nawaz Sharif to accept the invitation to the swearing-in ceremony of Modi as the prime minister of India, who is destined to govern as “an enlightened leader and a champion of India’s great diversity.”