Columnist Minhaz Merchant recently tweeted: “Few countries in the world have as many homegrown detractors of the national interest as India has. Character flaw? Greed? Low self-worth?”
A comparison of the reactions to Navjot Singh Sidhu’s embrace of Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony goes to indicate the relevance of Merchant’s tweet. Let us first discount the trolls who use abuse as the highest form of their argument. They are a breed apart, as the only idea which appeals to them is threatening and abusing anyone who does not prescribe to their base views. But to somehow portray Sidhu’s hug as an act which will bring peace to the sub-continent and to refer to anyone (remember the trolls are out of the story) who does not agree to the view that this act apparently deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, as “intellectually bankrupt, paranoid, unthinking, illiberal, ignorant, immature idiots” and relating it to “widespread under-employment”, shows that some trolls also wear their sophisticated khadis/Guccis and sip the best wine.
The fact that these so-called ‘liberals’, as they call their opponents “illiberal”, defend Sidhu and themselves on grounds of freedom of expression and deny the same rights to those opposing their views, goes to show that hypocrisy is dying a million deaths in these elite circles. Even the media houses opposing the ‘peace’ narrative played out to defend Sidhu’s ‘hugoplamacy’ are referred to as “commando-comic TV channels”. Notice the condescending description of someone not fitting into your scheme of things?
To extrapolate Merchant’s argument, why do we as a nation turn willfully blind despite the truth staring us in the eye? The truth has been bleeding us since 1947, if not a bit longer, but people now called as the Lutyens’ circuit want us to believe it never existed. The truth that while Sidhu had every right to be seated next to PoK president Masood Khan and hug Gen Bajwa, the people have a right to disagree with his actions and not get ridiculed or lampooned for their actions by veteran media people under the pretext of defending someone’s right to express. As an aside, it is seriously amusing (excuse the oxymoron) to find veterans impress the less fortunate by flaunting their ‘access’ journalism and how wonderfully they have done in their careers, unabashedly through their articles.
But we must not digress.
First things first. Sidhu had every right to be seated next to any quisling or embrace the devil. It was his prerogative and no one has the right to challenge that personal right. On the flip side, did he really have an alternative having lent himself to the mercies of the Pakistani Deep State, which one must admit, played its cards extremely well?
The photo-optics, which has played out subsequently, has gone in favour of the Pakistani establishment. With Sidhu parroting Gen Bajwa’s line, when he apparently told him “Navjot we want peace”, the whole exercise is being projected as something of a grand peace project. What was initially being described as Sidhu’s personal visit is now being projected as some secret Track III peace initiative led by the Pakistani army in collaboration with Indian ‘liberals’, as the option suits the narrative. The only hurdle, it seems, is the “intellectually bankrupt” and “paranoid, unthinking, illiberal, ignorant, immature idiots”, who just don’t get it.
Notwithstanding projecting myself as an impediment for peace, allow me to ask a few questions to Sidhu. Does he know the history of how insidiously Pakistan invaded Jammu & Kashmir on October 22, 1947, and that the valley at least has not witnessed sustained peace ever since? Does he know of the ‘rape’ of Baramulla on October 25, 1947, which spared none including the nuns? Does he know of Operation Gibraltar, the treachery at Lahore, the perfidy at Kargil? Does he care for the family of those who laid down their lives just in order to allow him to give Gen Bajwa a Punjabi ‘jhappi’ as an Indian? Does he know that the Pakistani army is psychologically prepared to fight a “thousand years war” with India over Kashmir and that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto once proclaimed that Pakistan “would eat grass but build the atom bomb?” Does he know that the middle and lower level of the Pakistani army is so heavily religiously indoctrinated that it seriously believes in ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ as its religious duty? Does he seriously believe that the offer of General Bajwa to “open the Kartarpur Saheb corridor” is sincere and is not related to the “Khalistan 2020 referendum”, which is now being promoted by ISI in an effort to revive the dormant Khalistan issue and add the third front element to the theory of “Two Front War”, much ridiculed by the defenders of Sidhu’s hug?
To extend Merchant’s argument, there is a sincere effort to turn India into a country oblivious to paradigms of national security. The smokescreen emanating from this fallacious ‘freedom of expression’ debate is ensuring just that.
The flawed at birth argument drawing comparisons between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s abrupt visit to Pakistan or even Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s bus journey to Lahore is part of that smokescreen. Are we to believe that the promoters of such theories are actually naive to not know that foreign policy is based on the simple theory of “no permanent enemies or friends but only permanent interests”. And before these ‘friends’ jump to any conclusion, “aha, we said so”, and claim Sidhu to be promoting India’s foreign policy, do we need to remind them that despite all the good intents and utopia, foreign policy is neither in the state or the concurrent list of the Constitution.
It is because of which, that the state, till date, has to bear the consequences the 1962 China debacle and not to forget the Sharm-el-Sheikh declaration where the B-word was needlessly introduced and Pakistan allowed to draw parity with the K-word. But then that is how it is. Individual citizens have neither the business nor the authority to conduct foreign policy. Yes, as the Prime Minister, it is incumbent on Modi to engage with China despite Doklam, CPEC or whatever. That is how it is constitutionally. So, shall we stop this void ab initio discussion? Do not forget that Nixon travelled to China at the height of the Cold War.
Mature nations believe in realpolitik because that is how the world turns. Your or mine like or dislike has no effect on the scheme of the world order.
For all the good intentions which Imran, as per Sidhu and his defenders, has, it is the Pakistani army which will continue to play shots on their foreign policy, especially vis-a-vis the US, China, India and Afghanistan, not necessarily in that order. Even today, Tangdhar sector is hot because of across the border shelling, terrorists being allowed a safe passage to infiltrate India and Eid festivities in Kashmir being marred by violence.
Since a section of politicians and media houses are so enamoured with Pakistan’s peaceful intentions, more so after Imran’s ascent and Bajwa’s “Navjot we want peace” sentiment, how about a small litmus test?
How about Pakistan handing over Hafeez Saeed and Lakhvi to India for their role in 26/11 and Masood Azhar for Parliament attack? Their role in the attacks have been established through international investigations and handing over criminals should not be a problem. That would be a good start, wouldn’t it? By the way, for naysayers, please do remember what happened to the Bhuttos, both Zulfiqar and Benazir, and Nawaz Sharif when they refused to play second fiddle to the Pakistani army.
And for all that talk about how Punjabis would not have a problem with Sidhu’s ‘hugoplomacy’, Capt Amarinder Singh is also a Punjabi, isn’t he?
Mayank Singh is the author of Wolf’s Lair, a rare Indian Military thriller which has earned rave reviews from experts in the field. He is passionate about issues of National Security, Foreign Policy and Geopolitics and has contributed to Fair Observer, The Times of India, Firstpost and Swarajya. Mayank is also the founder of Kashi Manthan, which looks to empower the youth with dialogues on issue of Leadership, National Security and Social issues.