Prime Minister Narendra Modi's advocacy for muscular diplomacy on Pakistan has caught his political rivals off guard. By raking up the issue of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, the options for non-BJP parties
are considerably limited as the move is seen to have aligned with the public mood which favours an unforgiving and punitive approach towards Pakistan.
This makes the Opposition's dilemma more acute as they are aware of the adverse fallout of critical approach to Modi's policies.
Some discordant voices in Congress from the likes of Salman Khursheed and Digvijaya Singh, which are in any case contrary to the main opposition party's official line, are being taken as an aberration.
Though no leader in opposition ranks would come on record to hail Modi's Independence Day speech, the part where he spoke of Balochistan, POK and Gilgit but privately some of his political rivals appreciate his decision to take Pakistan head on.
This time around, their actual concern is different -- not how Pakistan may respond in times to come, push for terror acts, infiltration, cause greater disturbances in Jammu and Kashmir or how the international community would
take it in due course but the move may become an emotional rallying point whereby people may choose to ignore Modi government's present and prospective failures.
There is, however, a rider if Modi stands true to his words and stays consistent on what he said on Independence Day and at the all-party meeting.
In last two years, he had not been consistent with his Pakistan policy. But now he has taken a position from where it would be difficult for him to retract and make a dovish posture. Bollywood superstar Samlan Khan's dialogue in movie Wanted "Ek baar jo maine commitment kardi, us ke baad toh mein khud ki bhi nahi suntan (Once I make a commitment after that I don't even listen to myself)" should serve as a reminder to him or his motto in this regard.
A senior leader of an important regional party, which otherwise is always very critical of Modi and the BJP, requesting anonymity said, "This is a move which no party can afford to oppose. He has hit bang on by going with the growing national sentiment. You see, lately nationalist sentiments are on the rise in India, so much so that the secular-communal debate has lost its relevance. So much so that today if you are referred being a secularist, you can consider yourself to be perceived as someone who is opposed to nation's interests. An opposition to Modi on his Balochistan, PoK, Gilgit statement against Pakistan would amount to even worse, being pro-Pakistan. No right thinking leader or party can afford it. That's the reason why Congress had to clarify on Samlan Khursheed and Digvijaya Singh remarks by the official spokesman of the party. Even P Chidambaram's statement on Kashmir was swiftly clarified by Congress."
With state and non-state actors from Pakistan getting involved in stoking violence in the Kashmir Valley and the fact that it was increasingly weighing heavily on the broad national conscience, it was need of the hour that India responded strongly. Modi did exactly that to keep his domestic constituency enthused to him.
Even as Modi had surprised the world by talking about Balochistan, PoK and Gilgit from Red Fort after unfurling the national tricolour, he had the prudence to call an all-party meeting at Parliament House only three days ago on 12 August and deliberate on the same at length. He had taken the mandate of the all-party meet and had gone a step ahead by publicly speaking over the subject. It must be noted that Prime Minister's nationally televised speech is heard live by foreign diplomats, all policy makers, political party leaders, security forces in remotest possible corner and in border areas.
An all-party meet on Kashmir was demanded by the Opposition and Modi had found it conveniently timed to him to make that big bang announcement of strategic shift in the government of India's policy. Leaders of political parties, across the party lines are closely looking at it, to assess which way thing were moving and the position they should take. The unfolding events of past few days indicate that Modi is coming true to his words, at least for now.
The external affairs ministry is speaking in a language that is otherwise heard from military commanders. Take for instance, Vikas Swarup's tweet, attaching ministry's statement in response to Pakistan foreign office of proposing to send supplies in Jammu and Kashmir: "......India and others in the region have already received enough of
Pakistan trademark exports -- international terrorism, cross border infiltration, weapons, narcotics and fake currency."
Indian external affairs ministry's announcement of a five-point agenda for any prospective talks on Thursday and assertion that if the talks have to be held it has to be held on terrorism through a letter submitted a day earlier by Indian high commissioner Gautam Bambawale to the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, has placed Modi's words in writing.
Indian Express reported India has asked Pakistan to end incitement to violence and terrorism from Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, stop cross-border terrorism, detain and prosecute terrorists like Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed, deny a safe haven to fugitives like Mumbai underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and close terror camps where terrorists like Bahadur Ali have been trained. India also proposed discussing Pakistan vacating the illegally occupied portion of Jammu and Kashmir. It also sought a briefing from the Pakistan Foreign Secretary on the progress in the 26/11 trial in Pakistan and its probe into the Pathankot airbase attack.
Pakistan Foreign Ministry's assertion that by talking about Balochistan, PM Modi had crossed the "red line", has only strengthened his and his party BJP's domestic constituency.
A leader of rival political party said Modi's recent talks on issues that have been agitating public mind coupled with a new trend with religion is mixed with nationalism -- like the new phenomenon of some kawariyan carrying a national flag while walking barefooted with Gangajal to their chosen destination for offering to Lord Shiva -- concerns us to revisit our strategy. And currently they don't have a political counter to that.