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Indo-Pak tamasha: A well timed patriotism harms no one

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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