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Hurricane Modi rattles Pakistan
Karamatullah K Ghori
2017-03-21
Region : AsiaSouthAsia/India,
Issue : Security,
Political pundits seem to be running out of luck when it comes to foretelling the outcome of elections these days. Narendra Modi has just stunned the Indian pundits with his spectacular performance in Uttar Pradesh the way Donald Trump did at the US elections last November.
Even the most charitable of pundits didn’t expect Modi’s BJP to sweep the UP polls the way it has done to steal all the wind from their sails. Modi has charisma and mass appeal, alright, but BJP winning 312 of the 403 seats in India’s most populous state, and that too a state ruled by a party poles apart from it in every sense, was never on their cards. BJP’s stunning performance has the pundits biting their nails.
So are the pundits in Pakistan scratching their heads over this bolt from the blue. It may be a surprise to many Indians—even those supposedly well up on international relations—that elections in an Indian state like UP trigger a lot of interest, if not real excitement, in neighbouring Pakistan, too. And the reason for it has more to it than UP’s politics.
A majority of those Pakistanis who, or their forbears, migrated to Pakistan from India can trace their roots to UP. In fact those dubbed, and also largely treated as, Mohajirs in Pakistan hail mostly from three states of India: UP, Rajasthan and Haryana. But it’s UP that predominates, not just in numbers but also in the iconic cultural narrative pivoted on the great Ganga-Jamni cultural heritage that still binds Pakistanis of UP provenance with whatever may be going on there.
So this most recent exercise in elective politics in UP was watched as keenly as all such previous exercises by those in Pakistan tethered to it viscerally and emotionally. I happened to be physical present in Aligarh—visiting the university there—during UP’s 2012 elections and can still recall how eager my Pakistani friends were, afterwards, in picking my brains on my experience of India’s elections. The Pakistanis have been attuned, for decades, to seeing UP through the blinkers of their Muslim kin there. The Muslims of UP, larger in number than in any other Indian state, were believed to be happy with the ruling Samajwadi Party and, so, were expected to renew its mandate, overwhelmingly.
As for the BJP, the Pakistani conventional wisdom ruled out any UP Muslim being prepared to trusting it for myriad reasons. The Muslim allergy list to BJP had the Hindutva syndrome on top of it.
Modi himself was faulted in the Pakistani narrative for fanning parochialism and Hindutva-based chauvinism. His objectionable rhetoric included a claim that Pakistan was somehow responsible for the tragic train accident, last November that had killed 148 people. The Pakistanis believed their Muslim kith in UP would be revolted by Modi’s Pakistan-phobia and turn their backs on him.
Now that Modi, like Trump, has proved all pundits and Pakistanis wrong, the latter find themselves stranded at a tangent where they must, to begin with, revisit their earlier projections of UP sounding the death knell for BJP and its expected drubbing at India’s national polls two years hence. With UP in his bag, hardly anyone would dare to disagree that Delhi is his for taking in the next Lok Sabha elections in 2019. That necessitates the Pakistani pundits scurrying to their drawing boards for a new game plan on how to deal with a robustly mandated Modi not pulled down or hampered by the need to look over his shoulder before any new initiative. The opinion is, understandably, divided in Pakistan in the aftermath of Modi’s stellar performance in UP as to how he’s likely to recalibrate his policy vis-a-vis Pakistan from a robustly augmented platform of popular approbation.
The optimists are ready to give him all the benefit of their own sanguine expectations that he’d be magnanimous in victory and will not be swayed by crowd-courting antics. A robust leader doesn’t suffer from insecurity and doesn’t pull back from taking bold initiatives. Nixon’s heroic initiative to level up with China is an example readily cited by Pakistani pundits. They hope Modi would be more forthcoming on Kashmir to take the major irritant out of the way between the two countries.
The Pakistani soothsayers express doubts, however, about their own leadership. Nawaz Sharif is on a very slippery slope with the Panama Gate scandal hanging over his head like the proverbial sword of Damocles; his house could come unstuck any day. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has his fate in the balance and, in the event of a verdict against him he could be gone, uncere-moniously.
The Jeremiahs of Pakistan—and there are plenty of them going around—fear the worst under a reinvigorated Modi. Freed from any constraints, they argue, Modi would be tempted to act like Hercules unchained and pander increasingly to the Hindutva extremist agenda, one that doesn’t believe in giving any quarter to India’s own Muslims, much less to Pakistan.
It’s unfortunate, to say the least, that in nearly three years of Modi’s government India, relations with Pakistan have been stymied, if not plummeted further, responsibility for which must equally
be apportioned to Pakistan, which on its own part hasn’t done much either to turn a page with India. Its record on taking on terrorists hasn’t been inspiring. However, those with an un-blinkered take on the India-Pakistan ties, have good reason to hope that a windfall triumph, like this recent one in UP, would bring out the best in Modi and help him turn a decisive corner with Pakistan. They’d hope that Pakistani leadership, too, rises to the changed scenario and wouldn’t disappoint as on many a times before.
(The author is a former Pakistani diplomat)
(This Article first published on The New Indian Express 21st March2017)
Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FORE INDIA

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