Tuesday August 20, 2019
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Indo-Pak tamasha: A well timed patriotism harms no one

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Image: BJP.org

India and Pakistan seem to have broken the ice in Bangkok after months of belligerence and a war of words between the top officials and politicians on both sides of the border. The ‘secret’ meeting between the National Security Advisers (NSAs) of the two countries accompanied by the foreign secretaries in Thailand’s capital on Sunday helped in the thawing the frozen Indo-Pak ties.

This comes days before External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s scheduled visit to Pakistan for ‘Heart of Asia’ regional conference on Afghanistan where she’s expected to call upon Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and meet his Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

One wonders what has changed between India and Pakistan in the past one month that prompted PM Modi to restart the dialogue with Islamabad. As I write this piece, reports pour in from Jammu & Kashmir where at least six CRPF jawans were injured when unidentified militants opened fired on their convoy on Srinagar-Jammu national highway in Anantnag district.

Terrorism continues unabated and Pakistan has not budged from its position to continue talking to Hurriyat leaders, a contentious issue over which the NSA-level talks in Delhi were cancelled.

Prime Minister Modi, however, seems a changed person after his party’s rout in Bihar elections when anti-Pakistan rhetoric was again touched upon. BJP president Amit Shah, during an election rally, even suggested that ‘crackers would burst in the Islamic Republic if his party lost in Bihar‘. They did lose Bihar, managing to secure only 55 seats out of total 243 in the state Assembly; a terrible performance indeed.

So this is what it’s all about, elections (duh).

Come polls, anti-Pakistan rhetoric reaches a crescendo, LoC heats up and war drums are beaten in a bid to arouse the ‘patriotic’ spirit of one and all. Patriotism, despite being the ‘last refuge of the scoundrel’, can be a useful tool to mobilize the masses, educated and illiterate alike, during elections. For a nation at war would usually be at the same page forgetting all the differences, brushing all others issues under the carpet.

The common man is taken for a ride when he is swayed by this rhetoric during polls, but light dawns upon him when the governments of two countries hold ‘secret’ meetings, like they just did in Bangkok, once the election dust settles in. He realizes that all that tough talk by ‘the man of 56-inch chest’ was but just that, an eyewash and subterfuge meant to achieve a political end.

Throughout the history, patriotism and religion have been used around the world to mobilize the masses against one particular enemy. When Hitler mobilized Germans against Jews he only paved the way for the World War II, but he was not the first person in the world to use nationalism as a political tool. Millions died defending their flags during the World Wars in the early and mid 20th century; however, we seem to have learnt almost no lessons from those historical mistakes. For petty political gains, we are sabotaging and playing with the future of the coming generations.

When I think of the Indo-Pak tamasha that has lasted for about 70 years, my mind dwells upon Russian philosopher Leo Tolstoy whose book ‘The Kingdom of God Is Within You’ that preached non-violence and humanity had a profound influence on Mahatma Gandhi. In the book, Tolstoy talks about Wilhelm II who ruled the pre-World War I Germany.

In 1892, Wilhelm addressed some soldiers:

“Conscripts, you have sworn fidelity to me before the altar and the minister of God! You are still too young to understand all the importance of what has been said here; let your care before all things be to obey the orders and instructions given to you. You have sworn fidelity to me; that means you are now my soldiers, that you have given yourselves to me body and soul. For you there is now but one enemy, my enemy. In these days of socialistic sedition, it may come to pass that I command you to fire on your own kindred, your brothers, even your own fathers and mothers, which God forbid, even then you are bound to obey my orders without hesitation.”

Wilhelm wanted the Germans, blinded by the blinkers of patriotism and loyalty to the former, to fire on his enemies even if they happened to be their own kindred.

Pray tell me, how are our rulers any different from Wilhelm?

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  • P G Kutty Nair

    The author’s colored vision becomes evident when he links the renewed effort to conduct Indo-Pak talks to the Bihar election results. He asserts that Modi has softened after the defeat. That’s a very poor understanding of Modi’s character. He could not be softened by his detractors among the political parties, the media and the intellectuals after more than a decade of spreading canards to vilify him! As for the Indo-Pak talk, in the present circumstances that appears to be the only sensible option and, besides, we are talking to them at our own terms.
    Incidentally, while the defeat in Bihar elections is a cause for concern for the BJP, the winning side doesn’t look covered in glory because the so-called grand alliance was motivated not by any high principle, but by an opportunistic mathematical calculation of numbers.

  • whodunit

    Tensions on the borders have nothing to do with elections in India. Some journalists think that everyone is just a rogue like they themselves are and does everything for roguish reasons. Tensions on borders began long before Bihar elections.

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  • P G Kutty Nair

    The author’s colored vision becomes evident when he links the renewed effort to conduct Indo-Pak talks to the Bihar election results. He asserts that Modi has softened after the defeat. That’s a very poor understanding of Modi’s character. He could not be softened by his detractors among the political parties, the media and the intellectuals after more than a decade of spreading canards to vilify him! As for the Indo-Pak talk, in the present circumstances that appears to be the only sensible option and, besides, we are talking to them at our own terms.
    Incidentally, while the defeat in Bihar elections is a cause for concern for the BJP, the winning side doesn’t look covered in glory because the so-called grand alliance was motivated not by any high principle, but by an opportunistic mathematical calculation of numbers.

  • whodunit

    Tensions on the borders have nothing to do with elections in India. Some journalists think that everyone is just a rogue like they themselves are and does everything for roguish reasons. Tensions on borders began long before Bihar elections.

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India to Set Up “Border Haats” with Myanmar

The Minister said, The success of the "Border Haats" running along the Bangladesh border in Meghalaya and Tripura has prompted us to go for similar 'haats'

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India, Border Haats, Myanmar
To carry out border trade with Myanmar, the location for the construction of 'Border Haat' has been identified in four places -- Hnahlan, Zote, Vaphai (Saikhumphai) and Sangau (Pangkhua) in southeastern Mizoram. Pixabay

The success of the “Border Haats” with Bangladesh has prompted other northeastern states of India to go for similar arrangements with Myanmar. At the instance of the Mizoram government, the Centre is likely to set up four “Border Haats” (market) along the border with Myanmar to boost local trade and livelihood of the people living there.

“To carry out border trade with Myanmar, the location for the construction of ‘Border Haat’ has been identified in four places — Hnahlan, Zote, Vaphai (Saikhumphai) and Sangau (Pangkhua) in southeastern Mizoram,” Mizoram Commerce and Industries Minister R. Lalthangliana told IANS.

The Minister said, “The success of the “Border Haats” running along the Bangladesh border in Meghalaya and Tripura has prompted us to go for similar ‘haats’ with Mynmar in Mizoram.”

Mizoram Commerce and Industries Department Director J. Hmingthanmawia said that the state government has sent the detailed proposals in this regard to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for its approval.

India, Border Haats, Myanmar
The success of the “Border Haats” with Bangladesh has prompted other northeastern states of India to go for similar arrangements with Myanmar. Pixabay

“Once we get the green signal from the MEA, we would seek funds from the Union Industries and Commerce Ministry,” Hmingthanmawia told IANS. He said that officials of the Mizoram government and Myanmar have recently conducted a joint survey and identified the locations to set up the “Border Haats”.

Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga in his Independence Day speech had said that the proposed “Border Haats” would become important trade points between India and Myanmar.

“Land Custom Station (LCS) at Zokhawthar, the lone trade route for Mizoram with South East Asian countries, is being proposed for upgradation. Construction of Trade Facilitation Centre at Tlabung has already been completed.”

“The Indian government has also proposed construction of an Integrated Check Post (ICP) at four places at the border in Mizoram — Marpara, Tuipuibari, Silsuri and Nunsury. The construction of ICP at Kawrpuichhuah is also expected to commence shortly,” the Chief Minister added.

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Mizoram has an unfenced international border of 404 km with Myanmar and 318 km with Bangladesh. The Border Security Force (BSF) has been guarding the Bangladesh border and Assam Rifles personnel are posted on the border with Myanmar.

Experts and various studies suggest that if the “Border Haats” are set up, smuggling of drugs and other commodities would be checked to a large extent. Security expert Manas Paul said that large-scale smuggling of drugs from Myanmar via Mizoram and other neighbouring states has increased in the last few years.

“What is really worrisome is the fact that these synthetic drugs have got a domestic market inside the state, especially among the younger generation. Cross border legal activities including setting up of “Border Haats” could curb the smuggling of drugs and other contraband,” Paul, who has authored books on security and terrorism in the northeast, told IANS.

The CUTS International, a Jaipur based international NGO, with support from the World Bank, had conducted a study in 2016 to understand and examine the effect of “Border Haats” on poverty alleviation and other multiplier effects such as informal trade.

India, Border Haats, Myanmar
At the instance of the Mizoram government, the Centre is likely to set up four “Border Haats” (market) along the border with Myanmar to boost local trade and livelihood of the people living there. Pixabay

CUTS International Executive Director Bipul Chatterjee said that trade will increase income, curb smuggling, and cross-border crimes will also go down.

“‘Border Haats’ have contributed to the border area development, roads have improved, trafficking of women has stopped, unemployment issues have been addressed,” said Chatterjee.

Currently four “Border Haats” are operational in Meghalaya and Tripura. The first “Border Haat” was started on July 23, 2011 at Kalaichar (India)-Kurigram (Bangladesh) in the West Garo Hills of Meghalaya. Three other “haats” followed in Meghalaya and Tripura.

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The Union Industries and Commerce Ministry has been spending on an average Rs 3.5 crore to develop the infrastructure and necessary facilities for each “Border Haat” along the Bangladesh border. The Bangladesh government is not providing any funds for the purpose.  (IANS)