BY D.C. PATHAK
It is a matter of national security concern for India as a democracy that organised attempts have been made by forces within and outside the country in recent times to foment public unrest on all policies of the present government whether pertaining to development, people’s health, education, agriculture or even security of citizens. No ruling dispensation would like to hurt its own cause by deliberately taking ‘wrong’ decisions on these vital aspects of national life. The orchestration of total criticism of the Modi regime — for its domestic or foreign affairs-related decisions — is evidently driven by political motivation. It needs to be said that anything even remotely affecting people’s fundamental right to equality and same protection of law should, of course, be fiercely opposed but opposition to a public policy on grounds of ideology, vote bank considerations or regionalism should at best be reserved for legislatures.
A peaceful protest that did not pave the way for violence, is also in order. The pattern of agitations inside the country, however, created an impression that they were guided not by the ‘content’ of the policy but by the desire to somehow pull down a legitimate government. Convergence between the domestic disorder and the propaganda line promoted by external players has attracted the notice of impartial observers — there is little doubt, therefore, that we need to step up vigilance so that planned attempts that might be there to cause domestic instability, as different from spontaneous public protests arising from perceived failures of governance, are unravelled in time for remedial action before they damaged national integration and hurt internal security.
The opposition to the new initiatives taken by the government for the farming sector and education seems to be primarily political as it totally dismisses the policy on the grounds that it was meant to give backdoor entry to corporates in agriculture and primacy to Hindi as the national language, respectively. Any disagreement on specific points of the policy concerned should have been spelt out and debated — the legislation could be used for building political support but without taking to the streets. Ultimately, it is the balance of public opinion that effects the fortunes of parties in a democracy — this would be a deterrence enough for any ruling dispensation to indulge in policy misadventures. The case of agitation against CAA has turned out to be a high octane mix of deliberate distortion by the opposition parties, exploitation of minority complex of Muslims by their communal minded leaders and a play of anti-Modi forces outside.
The political history of the Indian subcontinent makes it a human responsibility for any democratic Indian government to accommodate the persecuted minorities from the Islamic regimes in the neighbourhood. It is not at the cost of non-Hindu citizens of this country who stand on an equal footing with all others. Misgivings about NRC are valid and should be expressed but after a clarification coming in from the highest quarters, the issues of CAA and NRC should not be mixed up for political reasons. An all-out protest against CAA with militant overtones has only had the effect of deepening the communal divide — this can only please India’s adversaries.
Criticism of the present regime is apparently assuming the character of a coordinated campaign of the parties in opposition, the practitioners of minority politics and the left liberal lobby, beefed up by indirect but not so subtle incitement from NGOs representing vested interest and by sections of the foreign media following an agenda. It is remarkable how a convergence has been struck in the last few years amongst Kashmiri separatists, radical Islamic forces, elements of the extreme left, foreign-based advocates of human rights claiming suppression of weaker sections in India and critics of ‘nationalism’ who allege that the country was shifting towards ‘majoritarianism’ and away from ‘secularism’ — despite the fact that elections held under the Constitution so far had all produced democratically legitimate regimes.
The impression impartial observers get is that this is in essence a desperate attempt to bring together disparate ideological groups and sections to build numbers against the Modi government. It does not matter to the opposition if the narratives floated encouraged internal violence and allowed adversaries outside to take advantage of our domestic scene. The critique of the government’s actions must be specific and intelligible to get the attention of the people — responses of the state and central governments to certain law and order-related matters did produce dismay among the people and likewise the handling of distressed sections of population in the wake of the Corona lockdown was also flawed for good reasons. However, motivated campaigns against the ruling dispensation would not take the opposition far, though they might adversely affect national integration. The people of India attach great importance to the fact that India needed, more than anything else, a leadership that was not personally corrupt and this alone helped to keep up Prime Minister Modi’s popularity.
A telling illustration of how politics could blur the distinction between levelling of criticism of your own government and clearly supporting enemies of the nation, has been provided by the top leader of a major political party of Jammu and Kashmir who added to his advocacy for Pakistan on Kashmir, an invitation to China to do something for the restoration of Art 370 that had been abrogated by the Indian Parliament last year. This confirmed what was known to this country all along — that the leadership of the Valley-based political parties were hand-in-glove with the pro-Pakistan separatists and ruled the state with their help, doing little for the common Kashmiris and just lining their own pockets. Not once did they condemn Pakistan for unleashing cross-border terrorism in the Valley — they even used the organised stone pelting planned by Pak agents to leverage their demand for resumption of talks with Pakistan. Leaders of the Valley-based parties remain hostile to India — they enjoyed a share in the Union Cabinet when this suited them but ran down this country at home and abroad when not in power. They obviously look upon Kashmir as their fiefdom, nothing else.
It is a matter of grave concern that they have now crossed all limits and at a time when the Sino-Pak axis has emerged as the biggest threat to the national security of India, they have chosen to prompt China to compel India to undo the merger of Jammu and Kashmir with India — that was completed last year by way of a Parliamentary act abolishing Art 370 of the Constitution. To add insult to injury for the Kashmiris, these communal leaders — they looked at Kashmir that housed multiple faiths as a ‘Muslim’ issue and not as a territorial problem with Pakistan — have implicitly justified the usurpation of territory of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan and China. India cannot allow a handful of Valley leaders to challenge India’s national integrity by openly siding with our enemies. Politics cannot override national security and the Centre has to find a way of not letting this happen.
It bears repetition to say that India is in the midst of perhaps the biggest threat to its external and internal security because of the alliance on our borders between a ‘godless’ dictatorship and a regime that was a champion of Islamic terror. The huge give and take behind this collusion against India is the investment made by China on CPEC in return for proprietary rights to massively use the territory in POK. The Chinese have additionally acquired an economic sway on Pakistan and got into a position where they could dictate terms to that country in opposing India’s military presence in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh that would enable India to counter the expansionist designs of China in this vital geopolitical segment. The Imran Khan regime is now antithetical towards the US on the issue of support to radical Islam and also piqued by the Trump administration’s closeness to India under Modi’s Prime Ministership. In its blind hostility towards India, Pakistan is literally cutting the nose to spite the face in getting into bed with China. India has no option but to hit Pakistan where it hurts most — stunting the advance of CPEC across the LOC. Simultaneously, our security set-up has to remain geared up for neutralising the covert offensive that the Sino-Pak axis has evidently planned against India’s internal security.
(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)