Pakistan is a great country; it must be. Otherwise it won't occupy our national mindspace the way it does. Our media won't go on and on about it for months, the government won't appear so desperate to raise it in every international forum and elicit a few words against it and our own people won't be at each other's throat over the way to look at the country. If there's a growing feeling that Pakistan is dividing India in ways certain but as yet not well-defined — the patriotic Indian versus the unpatriotic Indian is one of the fissures visible — it is not unfounded.
As our testosterone-fuelled television studio superheroes go about distributing certificates of patriotism to fellow Indians, political and social outfits of little consequence threaten our own thinking and creative people, neighbourhood thugs with or without an ideology discover a cause to harass others and the venomous troll army in the social media vents fury at Indians with a different view, Pakistan has reason to feel happy. It could not have divided India the way the local 'patriots' have. Terrorists pushed through the border cause minor damage; this self-inflicted damage goes much deeper.
That the Pakistan obsession in India has taken the psychopathic edge needs no overstating.
It's certainly not the way vastly superior country conducts itself with an inferior one — we have made Pakistan our equal, as great as us. One is still not sure what the television news is trying to achieve by 'exposing' Pakistan before the Indian viewers repeatedly — it must be more than a few thousand times they exposed the nefarious designs of that country on us. Every time Prime Minister Narendra Modi utters a word about Pakistan it is invariably a 'stern message' or a dire 'warning' or an 'attack' and every time a terrorist is killed on the border it's the Pakistani army's that is 'crushed'. Something is utterly silly here. Or we are missing something in the hysteria.
The celebration over the 'surgical strikes', where a few terrorists were killed in retaliation for the death of 18 of our soldiers, was, in fact, an ode to our collective immaturity as people. It was made to look and sound as if India had finally won a decisive war against Pakistan. And we still cannot stop raving about it though nothing has changed visibly in the bilateral power equation. Something is terribly wrong with our sense of perspective or it has to be an acute case of low self-esteem. It can be both.
Or is there something more, say some ulterior motive?
Ever since Pakistan started dominating the television discourse - that was quite long back - almost everything else has gone off the radar. The farmers, the poor, the tribal population, the jobless and all such groups that used to trouble the conscience of the nation have all but vanished from the media. They break into the news space by accident, through tragedies and great losses. It is as if someone wants to keep the country perennially distracted from them and everything uncomfortable by design.
It is curious indeed that the media, a huge section of it at least, and the government would think so much alike on important issues. The convergence of minds could be purely coincidental, but the combination of both has the potential to create artificial reality for all of us, something akin to a smokescreen where we come to accept the smoke as the reality, not what it conceals. This is what, historians would say, Nazis managed in Germany. The result was disastrous for the country. Terror and Kashmir are indeed important matters for us, but are they that important that we forget whatever else matters to the country and its people?
Our Pakistan obsession has started doing exactly that. When we make that country the single-point agenda of the nation, the very way Pakistan has made India, we run the risk of reducing ourselves to people without dimensions and ideas. India certainly has better things to achieve. We must guard against falling into the psychological trap.