This, there is a consensus on in Pakistan: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is enmeshed with the Hindu fundamentalism of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, he is committed to Hindutva, and has demonstrated tolerance, time and again, of bigotry, racism and hate crimes against non-Hindus. In the general Pakistani consciousness, the anti-Muslim riots inGujarat define the current Indian PM.
Fascinatingly, however, there’s also this: while, in the past, any diplomatic snub or aggression from an Indian PM would evoke a unified response of solidarity and nationalism from Pakistanis, the responses are now visibly divided and varying.
Even though Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supporters exhibit the traditional reaction, a vast section of the public and intelligentsia take pleasure in the snubs to the current government, seen as a puppet thrust upon the polity. Jokes from Pakistanis pillorying Khan and his backers on the diplomatic slights from India flooded social media each time.
This is not, of course, love for Modi at all—it is a manifestation of the shattering of national unity caused by Khan’s politics of divisiveness, bigotry, and use of the religion card against his political opponents.
Even more fascinating is the fact that increasing numbers of people have shed their fear of being labelled unpatriotic or Indian agents for appearing to side with Modi instead of with Khan. The new confidence is truly striking.
Conversely and predictably, however, Khan’s supporters point to the affronts and poor responses from India as evidence of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif being ‘Modi ka yaar’, a trope invented by the security establishment and its proxies as one of many imaginary allegations against Sharif.
India-Pakistan watchers, interestingly, assert that the military establishment in Pakistan actually loves Modi, for the very same bigotry and racism others revile him for. This, the military believes, re-validates the two nation theory and ‘ideology of Pakistan’, thus reaffirming the case for Pakistan being a national security state. Modi deepens fears of a Hindu India that would swallow up whole the Muslims of Pakistan, were it not for Pakistan’s military.
The fact is also, however, that this government—widely seen as a proxy for the military—has repeatedly tried to reach out to Modi. This suggests it considers him powerful on the world stage, and therefore wants his goodwill and wants India’s anti-Pakistan lobbying to cease. Modi’s obstinacy has widely been attributed to the upcoming election by Pakistan’s analysts and media gurus.
Modi displayed a strikingly different attitude towards the Nawaz Sharif government. His surprise visit to Nawaz Sharif’s home, the willingness to have dialogue, the apparent downplaying of the Pathankot terror attack, and the past inclination to allowing Pakistan to resolve the terrorism problem all stand in sharp contrast to the rigid Modi of today.
I would attribute this different Modi less to the upcoming election in India, and more to the repeated incidences of terror attacks within India by Pakistan based militant groups, with nothing but lip service from Pakistan each time.
Gul Bukhari is a Pakistani political analyst and journalist
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