“Don’t hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting, but never hit soft” – once quipped US President Theodore Roosevelt. As the 74th UNGA comes to conclusion after an eventful week in the United States, where Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan blabbered about the same thing from one event to another, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi engaged in matters from deepening Indo-US people-to-people connection and trade ties, to seeking support in peace initiatives and effective work in the space of Climate change; the whole trajectory of conversation of Indian delegation ending with a spectacularly splendid response by the First Secretary Vidisha Maitra to the repetitive Pakistani rants was something which would have made Roosevelt particularly proud today.
Narendra Modi stepped on the American soil amid huge reception in Houston, where he was joined by the US president, and more than fifty senators, welcomed by an Indian-American crowd of more than fifty thousand people. Modi spoke about diversity of India, assured the audience that all was well back home in several Indian languages, called for trade ties, oil sector engagements with Texan oil companies.
He also spoke about how the will of the Indian people reflected in the abrogation of Article 370, which restricted people-friendly policies of the secular and democratic Union of India like right to equality, right to education, right to information, anti-corruption laws in the Muslim-majority state, merely because some thought back in the bruised era of history, immediately post-partition, that Muslims should get special treatment in a secular state, temporarily. These Indian leaders of the time had thought that it will allow the state to slowly integrate, while staying safe from the brutal invasion like 1947 from Pakistan, which wanted to fly the Islamist flag of Pakistan in the state, up in Srinagar. Obliquely referring to the efforts of the Pakistan to poke its nose into the internal affairs of India, Indian Prime Minister had at the beginning of the trip advised Imran Khan to rather focus on the matters of his grieving nation, struggling with high inflation, poor growth, violence, crime against minorities, terrorism and martial law in a part of Pakistan.
Not heeding to his advice, Imran Khan decided to go around, crying hoarse about Kashmir, calling it a cause of the Muslim Ummah to rise and threatening bloodshed, terror and war, regularly and repeatedly. We must grant that Imran could not have had an event like Modi had. All said, Narendra Modi’s life is much easier than Imran Khan’s. When Imran goes to England, Pakistani sex grooming gangs stare at him in the face; when he goes to the US, memories of Osama Bin Laden who killed thousands of Americans sheltered in Pakistan come alive again. He does not have successful Pakistanis, who like decent legal migrants settled down in the foreign lands, with a deep respect for the new cultures which they have stepped into. Unlike Indians contributing immensely to the host nations- serving the societies, leading the economies, enriching the culture; the way otherness has been cultivated in the Pakistani minds over the decades, since the formation, Pakistanis live like a pariah in most countries they move to, without gratitude, with the mindset of an invader, seeking privileges without contributing, often hiding their identities, projecting themselves as Indians. On the matters of bilateral relations too, he must have been finding it much difficult. While Modi could be asked about how he feels about the growth march of India in terms of climate, sanitation, infrastructure and sciences, all Imran Khan could be asked by the world about is the terrorism in his impoverished nation. That Imran did nothing to shed off that image and give a fresh perspective to Pakistan only indicates that things are going to get worse for Pakistan from now.
The lack of confident history and constructive vision for the future for Pakistan was pretty evident in the speech Imran Khan made on Climate change. He said Pakistan discovered six year ago that it was one of the most vulnerable countries. 80% of its rivers get water from Himalayan glaciers. He spoke about 1 Billion trees the Pakistan government planted in last six years. The fact remains that India planted 1.2 Billion trees in last one year, raising the green cover to 24.36% as against Pakistan’s green cover between 2.5 to 5%. He then falls into the rhetoric, claiming that the world is not taking it seriously. He laments refugees coming into Pakistan from Afghanistan and then the usual funding request comes asking rich countries to contribute. Modi, on the other hand, speaks in specifics on Climate change. He spoke about increase in non-fossil fuel share, increase in renewable energy to 175 GW and plan to increase it to 450 GW, promotion of electric mobility, clean cooking gas to 150 million families, clean water mission with a planned expenditure of 50 billion USD, 80 nations being part of India’s International Solar Alliance, India‑Sweden alliance on low-carbon pathway, banning single-use plastics, solar energy plant at the UN Headquarters installed by India. PM Modi also spoke about the cultural heritage of India which has a deep affection for the environment inherently imbibed in it. It is not that Pakistan cannot claim a part in the glorious aspect of this great culture, but then the biggest issue of Pakistan is that it has, since formation, negated its Hindu past and is so deeply tied up it is with its dogmatic pursuance of a doctrine of hate that it has converted itself into a nation with no roots and no legs. Devoid of cultural history, it has tried to find invented consonance with those very symbols which denote the subjugation of Pakistan at the hands of invaders.
Then as PM Modi went on with industry interactions and inter-country engagements, Imran Khan sat for CFR (Council on Foreign Relation) interaction. He lamented situation in Kashmir, claimed that he, as an elected PM, has the approval and support for Pakistan Military for his policies, at once funny and sad for a democratically elected PM to confess at the global stage. He further unknowingly proves his claim of being at the mercy of the approval of Pakistan Army when answering the question about how Osama Bin Laden being sheltered near Army HQ in Abbottabad for years, he says an enquiry commission was formed and says that he believes, they have submitted the report, but he is not aware of the findings. The head of state of a nation visits another nation, thousands of whose citizens were murdered by the man which his country sheltered, and the PM of the nation does not know a thing about it. Whether he was uninterested in reading such a critical report or was it simply above his pay-grade, Imran Khan doesn’t elaborate. However, confirming the apprehensions made about Pakistan being run by a rogue army, Imran regrets Pakistan’s decision to join the war on terror and says erstwhile President of Pakistan was attacked by Army people. He deftly places Pakistan into the textbook definition of a rogue state.
Then came the much-awaited UNGA address. Indian PM spoke about the citizen welfare schemes, schemes to uplift the lives of people, economic progress, the challenges of terror. For Pakistan, Indian PM’s speech was the worst nightmare. A royal ignore, a clever and much-needed de-hyphenation of Indo-Pak and a clear refusal by India to be placed on the same platform as a rogue nation. Sticking to the allotted timeline, Modi spoke under 15 minutes and made a statesman-like speech. Imran Khan spoke after him, making an incongruent 45 minutes blabber, jumping from climate change to corruption in Pakistan, somehow claiming in a convoluted manner that it was making rich nations richer.
After struggling across topics, he landed on 9/11 as the time when Islamophobia took a place of prominence, cunningly ignoring those who lost lives in the terror attacks. Then he went on the explain the special place religion had in the life of Muslims and somehow explained how lack of sense of humour is an inherent part of Islam. He kind of forewarned the world quoting the case of bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie, how because of the limited tolerance of Muslims, they are well within their rights to cause violence to those they do not agree with. He, who had once earned for himself a moniker of Taliban Khan for being a staunch supporter of the dreaded Taliban, which was a predecessor of ISIS, explained the blasphemy laws and the necessity of these archaic laws which have left hundreds imprisoned, exiled and killed. Having justified terror as a legitimate means to establish religious supremacy, where one religion cannot be even spoken about without the fear of violent response, he drew even deeper lines for Islamophobia. In a way, he advised people to be scared, very scared of Muslims, because for them orthodox fanaticism is a way of life.
An overdrawn rant of the premier of a rogue nation was then responded by a short, smart, stinging reply by Ms. Vinita Maitra, First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN. She responded to the Pakistan PM’s garrulous rant with facts. She brought the attention of the world community to one of the largest genocide and massacres in Human history perpetrated by the Pakistan Army under General Niyazi who eventually lost East Pakistan in the form of Bangladesh. This was beautifully linked with the second Niyazi who is all set to lose Balochistan, Sindh and Gilgit in his urge to become junior Caliph to Turkey’s Erdogan, like some Robin to his new-found Batman, as he tries to split the world into Muslim and Non-Muslim world.
We, in India, have seen this before as to how polarization always results in reverse-polarization, I hope, the wise words of Ms. Maitra’s short speech would bring some sense into the Islamist Pakistan PM. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan with curtailed rights of Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadiyas, Balochs has already reduced the percentage of minorities from 23% at the time of the creation of Pakistan to 3%. We only hope the terror-nation finds the end which it is rushing crazily towards. India’s right to reply in the UN brought out that Pakistan has become an ISIS in a fancy suit and lost its right to exist in a civilized world. So after avoiding to hit Pakistan the entire week honourably, eventually when the hit came, it wasn’t soft. This is the way civilized nations do diplomacy, decisive and dignified. Churchill had said once that Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions. Let us wish Imran Khan best as he searches for his way back to the hell he came from.