War is not a cricket match and an air strike should not be reduced to a political spectacle. But we are in election season which might explain the well-choreographed celebratory note which has been struck in the aftermath of the ‘pre-emptive, non military strike’ on terror camps in Pakistan. As the ‘collective conscience’ of a nation seems to be satiated only by avenging the brutal killing of 40 CRPF soldiers in Pulwama, the dominant national mood leads one to ask: have Pulwama and Pakistan become the core narrative that will influence voter behavior in the 2019 general elections?
If paanwallahs in north India are a signpost for the election breeze, then taxi-drivers in London are often astute sports forecasters. When my London cabbie turns out to be a Pakistani who predicts that his team is heading for a heavy defeat against India in the Champions Trophy, you know the men in green are in big trouble. After all, the one thing that Pakistanis pride themselves on is the notion of ‘junoon’ (obsession) with beating the ‘Big Brother’. All that has changed now which is why the whopping 124 run loss to India in Birmingham should not come as any surprise.
In the universe of the 24x7 media, there is literally no place to hide. Which is why it should come as no surprise that a video of Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking out as Gujarat chief minister against the then UPA government’s Pakistan policy went viral last week. The video shows Modi mocking the Manmohan Singh government for not giving Pakistan a befitting reply to a terror attack. “Why are you not marching into Pakistan instead of begging the world for support,” he can be heard saying in the video.
At a time when actor-politician Ramya has bizarrely had a sedition case filed against her for claiming “Pakistan is not hell”, let me test the waters of sedition by suggesting that there is quite simply no better country for an Indian journalist to report from outside of India than Pakistan. Between 1995 and 2004, I was fortunate to travel several times to Pakistan, each visit a revelation and an occasion to break new ground.
Heads of our soldiers are being cut but we are feeding their prime minister chicken biryani. This country is ruled by weak leaders,” Narendra Modi speech in May 2013.
“Mr Prime Minister — No dialogue over dead bodies. Please cancel your meeting with Nawaz Sharif,” Sushma Swaraj tweet in September 2013.
Indo-Pak cricket, like diplomatic relations between the two countries, suffers from schizophrenia. Rewind to January 1999 when a Chennai crowd gave a standing ovation to Wasim Akram’s men after they had just beaten India. Six months later, the two countries met again in a world cup match against the backdrop of the Kargil war and fans of both sides abused each other. In 2004, we were treated to a Pakistani crowd singing, “Balaji, zara dheere chalo” every time he ran in to bowl.