By Waqas Rafique
Though it wasn’t a Pakistan-India cricket match, but the Indian election this year evoked a lot of interest in Pakistan. Radio, television, print media and, of course, the ever-important social media was following steadfast, carrying headlines and analyses.
No surprises on the now prime minister-designate Narendra Modi’s thoughts on Pakistan that he has been voicing recently, but for the unprecedented attention here at home, credit goes to the statements laden with anti-Pakistan sentiments that Mr. Modi had been making during the remarkable and impressive election process in India.
Mr. Modi’s sleepless nights have paid off and he will, according to experts, not have to face the pressure of coalition politics while being in government but that challenges to govern India are greater than ever before.
One of these challenges is to live up to the expectations of the people who have voted for him. The Congress leadership does not appeal to the real Indian anymore; for in the words of a journalist, “Rahul Gandhi is a nice guy and nice guys do not achieve much. He is more of a tourist rather than a politician.” With this in mind, I am sure that the Bharatiya Janata Party would be watchful that the people of India have not given Mr. Modi the mandate just because they love him. Having lost hope in Congress they have turned towards the BJP in spite of its Hindu fundamentalist agenda. What other choice did the voters in India have except to choose the lesser evil?
The growing and vibrant middle-class in India has become very traditionalist over the years that the Congress party failed to deliver to. India has been suffering from its highest rate of inflation for 20 years. So, an expectation that the middle class has from Mr. Modi now is that he should be able to replicate Gujarat’s model of economic success to all of India. How feasible is that remains to be seen.
And then there are those who are just smiling helplessly as they look at the BJP sweep away, for they are worried how the fundamental mindset of the winners of the election would deal with at least 10 separatist movements in India.
Speaking of movements, Pakistan Army’s chief General Raheel Sharif very clearly gave us a reminder on Martyrs’ Day this year that the longstanding Kashmir issue has not been forgotten and was a real issue between Pakistan and India. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Tasnim Aslam, whenever asked about the BJP gaining power in India, has always maintained that choosing who will govern the country was the Indians’ job and Pakistan would want to work with any government that is formed in India. But at the same time she has also had to describe Mr. Modi’s statements about tracking down Dawood Ibrahim inside Pakistani territory as “sad, regrettable and condemnable”.
The realities between the two countries are harsh. The reaction on either side to unfortunate events such as attacking prisoners in jails has been tit for tat, always. A Pakistani student was recently assaulted in Pondicherry University in India, pilgrims denied visas and it seems highly likely that after functioning for 25 years, the Islamabad office of India’s The Hindu newspaper will be shut down after its reporter in Islamabad along with that of the Press Trust of India were denied visa extensions and the two are on their way home. By the way, according to an arrangement between the two countries, Pakistan could have two of its journalists in India, but alas there is none.
So, it’s hard to find answers to so many questions. Will Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s extension of warmth to India when he assumed charge as the premier last year be reciprocated by Mr. Modi as India’s prime minister? Will Mr. Modi as prime minister be pragmatic? Along with the rest of the world, Pakistan too will be watchful of any signs of the BJP trying to introduce elements of a Hindu fundamentalist agenda.
Meanwhile, movies they say, are a reflection of society. And recent Bollywood releases such as Bewakoofiyan, Gori Teray Pyar Main and Satyagraha all talked about social change and in one way or the other pointed out towards the political, moral and governance problems in modern India that is evolving at super speed. This election has brought about change in the government but it is vital for the BJP government to not fail at adapting to a changing India. Let’s watch together how Mr. Narendra Modi goes about doing his business, which he claims he is very good at.
The writer is a television journalist.