The dove of peace that Prime Minister Narendra Modi dispatched on 23 March, giving Imran Khan and Pakistan best wishes on its National Day, is an ideal target for the Opposition to take potshots at and ridicule. That the Indian government did not make this message public, and it was Imran who did so, has added to the sneering and scoffing.
But, in fairness, why do we have to see it as a sign of weakness on Modi’s part? Sometimes you can unnerve your adversary with kindness and disarm him. It is often a sign of strength that one can exercise graciousness instead of hostility. By doing so, the person does not surrender either terrain or any options, or any of the arrows in the quiver. If Modi is not afraid to negotiate and, to paraphrase John F Kennedy, is not negotiating out of fear, why cavil over this gesture?
At some time, the impasse has to be broken. No one castigated Imran when he said that peace on the subcontinent is an imperative. Even now, in response to Modi’s message, he answered: “ I welcome Prime Minister Modi's message to our people. As we celebrate Pakistan Day, I believe it is time to begin a comprehensive dialogue with India to address and resolve all issues, especially the central issue of Kashmir, and forge a new relationship based on peace and prosperity for all our people.”
Let's at least give this situation a chance to breathe, while keeping our guard up and collecting evidence of honest intent. No one is saying that we should be blindly trustful, but let us at least accept that it is time to end 70 years of hostility, and find some comfort in the fact that two leaders are showing intent to grasp the olive branch.
In this instance, the optics are upsetting certain quarters. Modi's detractors will say that he is desecrating the memory of the victims of the Pulwama attack, and the actions of his government are contrary to his message. Some ask why the government decided to boycott an official function while the prime minister sent his wishes to Imran — which were not made public.
In fairness, it is unlikely that the prime minister deliberately created a sense of mystique by not releasing a copy of the statement to the public through the media. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Imran was likely to make it public.
There will also be accusations now that this message was another pre-election move by Modi to gain Muslim votes. What is the possible connection between wishing Pakistan on its National Day and the voting decisions of Muslims in India?
There is not much ground for the Congress to attack the NDA government on this issue, and there is no need to stir up controversy. On the contrary, if any steps are being taken to stop the shelling on the borders and to give peace a chance, we should go for it. Perhaps, one day the two nations will play bilateral cricket again.
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Updated Date: Mar 24, 2019 18:57:28 IST