[Unidentified terrorists attacked the IAF base in Punjab's Pathankot town early Saturday, leaving three IAF personnel and five terrorists dead.]
Can’t believe it! The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) which would not miss an opportunity to condemn, criticize and denounce any peace effort with its neighbor Pakistan would show such a maturity after the heinous terror attack at the India Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot.
There has never been any doubt that such attacks, taking place routinely and especially when there is a slightest positive development vis-à-vis relation between the two neighbors, are meant to derail the peace process.
That the Pathankot IAF base was attacked by terrorists coming from across the border days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised the world by his unannounced stopover in Lahore is the latest evidence to prove this notion.
But, unlike in the past when, literally playing in the hands of those who in order to continue enjoying the benefits from the hostilities between the two countries mastermind such attacks, the popular stand would be to shun all ties with Pakistan, India’s response after the Pathankot attack was not only restrained but it was the one that gave rise to hope and optimism.
Since the Congress ruled the country for most of the duration after independence, it was the main strategy and stand of the BJP as opposition to denounce any peace effort with Pakistan. Indeed, the BJP stance helped it to cement ties with its support base, but it was done for political gains at the cost of national interest.
If the BJP in power is now realizing that hostile relation with Pakistan is not in the national interest, there is no appropriate time than this to admit– in words and also by deeds, that its long-standing Pakistan policy was flawed. And, the reactions of the government and the BJP after the Pathankot IAF base attack demonstrate that the RSS affiliated Saffron outfit has at last made up its mind to belie its earlier stance. Sample this:
“The government wants peace and good relations with all its neighbours, including Pakistan, but would not shy from giving a befitting reply”, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in his first official reaction after the attack.
On criticism from some Congress leaders of the government's policy towards Pakistan, Rajnath Singh said, "Let them (opposition) say whatever they like, but our policy is clear. We want peace. But we will not tolerate any terrorist activity on our soil and will give a befitting response.”
Prime Minister Modi himself was more cautious. He did not even name Pakistan – a customary practice after such attacks.
“Enemies of humanity who could not see the nation succeed have attempted to cause harm to the armed forces”, Modi said responding to the IAF base attack.
The government’s official reaction is backed by the BJP.
“The resumed dialogue cannot be revoked due to ‘one attack’ and that the government will take a right decision at the right time”, Party Secretary Shrikant Sharma said.
To make the new development more important, the media, which till now happily cohered with the BJP to promote anti-Pakistan sentiments in India, is extending its support to the government.
“To call off the proposed talks with Pakistan because of this attack would be a mistake. It is no secret that there is a string section within the Pakistani ‘deep state' that is hostile to the idea of peace with India”, India’s leading daily The Times of India wrote a day after the attack.
“If India responds to every terrorist attack on its soil launched from within Pakistan by putting the process of talks on hold, it would play into the hands of these elements. It makes more sense to strengthen the hands of pro-peace elements in Pakistan, including the civilian government, by staying engaged. On its part, the Pakistani government must show real intent in curbing the use of its territory for attacks on India”, the newspaper wrote.
The Times of India has however missed an important point here. Not only in Pakistan, there exists a strong group within India also that is hostile to the idea of peace with Pakistan.
And, this group of course is not Indian Muslims. For, the Indian Muslims are of the firm belief that a cordial and peaceful relation with Pakistan is for their own advantage. This is for the reason that it is in the name of Pakistan that they are being haunted, denounced, condemned and subjected to prejudice.
So, while going ahead with building a cordial relation with Pakistan, the government and the BJP must also identify and rein in the forces within the country that are opposed to the peace.
As for the Congress, the government should not worry much as it is not ‘saffron’ enough to paint the country with anti-Pakistan color the way RSS, BJP and their affiliates did in last sixty years.
[Aleem Faizee is founder editor of ummid.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org]