Modi’s fate in May elections may hinge on action against Pakistan

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FILE PHOTO: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks with the media inside the parliament premises on the first day of the budget session, in New Delhi, India, January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/File photo

NEW YORK – On a day when the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, flagged off the Vande Bharat Express, touted as India’s fastest train, on its inaugural run from Delhi to Varanasi, on Friday, he also mourned the murder of at least 41 CRFP personnel in Kashmir; victims of a cowardly suicide bomber trained by the Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist group based in Pakistan.

The Pulwama terrorist attack is yet another of a series of deadly, coordinated attacks emanating from Pakistan, who make inane murmurings after such acts targeting military personnel and civilians. The Pakistan government and ISI feign innocence, adroitly brush off accusations of blame, show total disdain for diplomatic condemnation. This deadly game, of killing and maiming innocent people, continues thereafter, with impunity.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose chief job after being elected seems to be to go begging across continents for money to help his country survive a doomsday economic scenario, has not even made perfunctory remarks condoling the dastardly attack in Kashmir. Pretensions to mask radical objectives seem abandoned.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari accused Khan of being in cahoots with Jaish. He pointed out that Jaish had helped Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party form the government after last year’s elections. Tewari alleged Jaish was able to build a new headquarters outside Bahawalpur in Pakistan’s Punjab province. He demanded Modi ask his counterpart across the border to hand over Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar, reported The Week.

India, no doubt, under Modi, have already started to plan retaliatory attacks, or are itching to implement one, since they would have envisaged such scenarios, made prior plans for counter offensive measures.

Modi warned Friday of a “crushing response” to the suicide bombing in Pulwama.

“Our neighboring country thinks such terror attacks can weaken us, but their plans will not materialize,” he said, adding that government forces have been “given total freedom” to deal with the militants, reported AP. “Security forces have been given permission to take decisions about the timing, place and nature of their response,” he said.

India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced Friday that New Delhi was withdrawing the most-favored nation trade status given to Pakistan and would take all possible diplomatic steps “to ensure the complete isolation from international community of Pakistan of which incontrovertible evidence is available of having a direct hand in this gruesome terrorist incident.”

Amidst all the anger and the angst, larger questions of how India react to this new attack; would markets and economy be in trepidation, or nosedive; would there be communal violence; will political discourse get skewed in the immediate aftermath, are like splotches of oil in water in a bucket.

An overwhelming question is also if Modi will come out stronger or not from this situation.  With emotions running high in India, demand for vengeance rising in decibels, questions loom as to how quickly Modi would be able to powerfully and effectively conduct a counter-attack against Pakistan, turn this around into pride for India. Can he subsequently channel that favorable voter sentiment in his favor in the May elections, catapult himself to run the country for another five years?

With Modi’s guerilla-style surgical strike in PoK to dismantle terrorist safe harbors now a household name in India, courtesy of the film ‘Uri’, the new challenge for the prime minister would be to show strength and dominance with visible results, without going into an all-out war with Pakistan, during this period of heightened escalation in rhetoric, and military action.

India’s future response may very well be surgical attacks in PoK and elsewhere 365 days of the year, to reduce and eradicate the menace of terrorism. They have solid international backing, especially from the Trump administration, which promptly condemned Pakistan after the Pulwama attack.

“The United States calls on Pakistan to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil, whose only goal is to sow chaos, violence, and terror in the region. This attack only strengthens our resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation and coordination between the United States and India,” the Trump administration said in a statement.

Kenneth Juster, the US ambassador to India, had this to say, on Thursday: “The US Mission in India strongly condemns today’s terrorist attack in Jammu & Kashmir. We send our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims. The US stands alongside India in confronting terror and defeating it.”

The Embassy of Russian Federation too came down heavily on Pakistan, saying: “We denounce terrorism in all its forms & reiterate the need to combat these inhuman acts with decisive and collective response without any double standards. We express condolences to families of the deceased and wish a speedy recovery to injured.”

The French Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler too gave his support to India, saying: “France has always been and always will be by India’s side in the fight against terrorism in all its forms.”

The onus is now on Modi. With general elections looming, alacrity in tackling this menace is of paramount importance.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)

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