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Who's Afraid of an N-War? The Entire Humanity, Shri Modiji

A. J. Philip A. J. Philip
20 May 2024

Let me delve into history for a moment. The Cold War was a period of intense geopolitical tension and rivalry between the United States and its NATO allies on one side and the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies on the other, lasting roughly from the end of World War II in 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Characterised by ideological, political, and military confrontations, the Cold War was marked by a constant fear of nuclear annihilation and the proliferation of proxy wars fought in various parts of the world. The Cuban missile crisis was when the US and the USSR came close to a war.

The conflict arose from ideological differences between the capitalist West and the communist East, with each side seeking to expand its sphere of influence and promote its political system globally. The competition for dominance led to an arms race, espionage, and propaganda campaigns.

For every copy of SPAN the American Embassy in India distributed, there were a hundred copies of Soviet Land magazine sold in India at a throwaway price. Books that propagated the myth that the Soviet Union was where honey and milk flowed freely were promoted.

Although direct military confrontation between the superpowers was avoided, the Cold War shaped global politics, economics, and society for decades. It influenced the course of decolonisation, the spread of nuclear weapons, and the emergence of new international institutions aimed at preventing another world war. The end of the Cold War brought about significant changes, including the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the USA as the world's sole superpower.

However, during the Cold War, both the US and the Soviet Union refrained from openly mentioning the use of nuclear weapons against each other due to several reasons. Firstly, the concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD) served as a powerful deterrent. Both sides understood that any nuclear exchange would result in catastrophic consequences for both parties, leading to the annihilation of major cities and massive loss of life.

This understanding created a sense of strategic stability, as neither side wanted to risk the devastation that would accompany a nuclear war. Secondly, international norms and conventions discouraged the use of nuclear weapons. The use of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II had left a lasting impact on the global conscience, leading to widespread condemnation of nuclear warfare.

Both the US and the USSR were signatories to various treaties and agreements aimed at limiting the spread and use of nuclear weapons, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). Furthermore, both superpowers recognised the need for diplomatic solutions to their conflicts.

Despite their ideological differences and geopolitical rivalries, the US and the USSR engaged in numerous negotiations and dialogues to manage their differences and prevent escalation to nuclear conflict. Diplomatic channels, such as the hotline between Washington and Moscow, were established to facilitate communication and reduce the risk of misunderstanding or miscalculation.

The former Delhi Chief Minister, the late Madan Lal Khurana's challenge to Pakistan for a war with India soon after India's nuclear weapon demonstration under Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a display of bravado that overlooked the drastic shift in the regional power dynamics. Prior to Pakistan's nuclear test, which came in a week's time, India indeed held military superiority over its neighbour in conventional weapons. However, the emergence of Pakistan as a nuclear power fundamentally altered the strategic calculus in the region.

Nuclear weapons introduced a new dimension wherein the prospect of a nuclear war became too risky for either side to contemplate. In other words, Pakistan's acquisition of nuclear capabilities effectively neutralised India's conventional military superiority, as both countries now possessed the capability to inflict unacceptable levels of destruction upon each other.

This nuclear parity forced both India and Pakistan to exercise greater caution and restraint in their interactions, as the consequences of any conflict would be catastrophic for both sides. It also compelled them to engage in dialogue and diplomacy to manage their disputes and prevent the escalation of tensions to nuclear levels.

Unlike the superpowers, India and Pakistan have not hesitated to resort to nuclear threats. Both countries have openly discussed the possibility of using nuclear weapons as a deterrent against each other's aggression. This has been particularly evident in moments of military confrontation, such as the Kargil conflict in 1999 and the Pulwama crisis in 2019, where nuclear rhetoric was employed to escalate tensions and demonstrate resolve.

Furthermore, political leaders and military officials from both nations have made public statements suggesting a willingness to use nuclear weapons if necessary, further exacerbating regional instability. Despite international pressure to exercise restraint, the nuclear sabre-rattling between India and Pakistan continues to be a prominent feature of their bilateral relations, highlighting the precarious nature of their nuclear deterrence strategy and the risks associated with nuclear brinkmanship.

During election campaigns, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently employed rhetoric involving Pakistan to appeal to nationalist sentiments and project himself as a strong leader capable of handling external threats. This tactic was evident even during his early political career, such as when he contested elections in Gujarat after becoming chief minister. At that time, Modi strategically invoked the name of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, effectively using him as a symbolic adversary in the electoral arena.

By focusing on Pakistan, Modi sought to portray himself as a defender of India's interests against perceived external enemies, thereby tapping into the electorate's fears and insecurities. This tactic not only helped him consolidate support among his political base but also projected an image of strength and assertiveness to the wider electorate.

Moreover, Modi's emphasis on Pakistan during elections serves to divert attention from domestic issues and failures of governance, allowing him to rally public support around themes of national security and patriotism. In the current election for the 18th Lok Sabha, Modi's administration has continued its tradition of leveraging tensions with Pakistan for political gain.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's bold statement about reclaiming Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) underscored the government's assertive stance on territorial disputes. However, this rhetoric prompted a sharp response from former Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, who cautioned against underestimating Pakistan's nuclear capabilities, symbolised by the metaphorical mention of bangles.

Modi, known for his combative stance, swiftly engaged with the discourse, accusing the opposition leaders of cowardice in the face of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. By framing the debate in terms of national security and highlighting the purported fear of INDIAlliance towards Pakistan's nuclear capabilities, Modi sought to position himself as the resolute protector of India's sovereignty and safety.

Modi's rhetoric escalated tensions between India and Pakistan. He boldly declared his intent to strip Pakistan of its perceived masculinity by making them "wear bangles," a derogatory implication suggesting weakness. This bellicose rhetoric, coupled with his assertion that the BJP remained unfazed by Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, added fuel to the already volatile situation.

Furthermore, Modi's disparaging remarks about Pakistan's socio-economic conditions further strained diplomatic relations. By insinuating that Pakistan lacked sufficient food and even basic accessories like bangles, Modi aimed to undermine Pakistan's credibility on the global stage.

Such inflammatory comments not only deepened animosity between the two nations but also risked exacerbating regional instability. In the volatile geopolitical landscape of South Asia, such provocative language from influential leaders like Modi only serves to heighten the risk of conflict and hinder diplomatic efforts towards peace and stability.

India's socio-economic challenges, including widespread poverty and illiteracy, indeed pose significant hurdles to its development efforts. With tens of millions of people reliant on government assistance for basic necessities like food grains, India's internal struggles are undeniable.

These challenges undermine India's authority to mock Pakistan. They may question the moral high ground of Indian leaders who make disparaging remarks about Pakistan while significant segments of the Indian population struggle with poverty and deprivation. Such critics may contend that India should focus on addressing its own domestic issues before engaging in external confrontations or rhetoric.

India's moral authority to mock Pakistan is undermined by its own internal challenges and shortcomings. With a significant portion of its population living below the poverty line, grappling with illiteracy, and lacking access to basic amenities, India faces pressing socio-economic issues that demand urgent attention and resources.

Moreover, India's history of communal tensions, caste-based discrimination, and human rights abuses tarnish its moral standing on the global stage. These internal fissures raise questions about India's capacity to project itself as a paragon of virtue or to pass judgment on other nations.

Given these domestic challenges and the complexities of its own socio-political landscape, India's criticism or mockery of Pakistan may appear hypocritical or lacking in credibility to observers, both domestic and international. Thus, while India may have legitimate grievances or concerns regarding Pakistan, its moral authority to deride or ridicule its neighbour is significantly diminished by its own internal struggles.

While Modi's rhetoric may convey a sense of bravado regarding nuclear conflict, the reality is far grimmer. Sensible individuals recognise the catastrophic consequences of nuclear warfare, transcending national boundaries and political affiliations. The devastation wrought by nuclear weapons is indiscriminate, leaving no victors in its wake.

The spectre of mutually assured destruction looms large in the context of nuclear-armed adversaries like India and Pakistan. Both nations possess significant arsenals capable of inflicting unimaginable devastation upon each other's populations. In the event of a nuclear exchange, the loss of life, environmental degradation, and long-term consequences would be catastrophic, reverberating far beyond the immediate conflict zone.

Therefore, while political leaders may engage in sabre-rattling and bellicose rhetoric, the stark reality of nuclear warfare remains a sobering reminder of the imperative for diplomatic dialogue, conflict resolution, and nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Sensible individuals recognise the futility and horror of nuclear conflict, underscoring the importance of peace-building initiatives and de-escalation measures to mitigate the risk of such catastrophic outcomes.

As elections ebb and flow, it's necessary for leaders to exercise caution and responsibility, particularly when discussing matters as grave as nuclear conflict. While political rhetoric may be employed to sway public opinion, the spectre of nuclear warfare demands a more measured approach.

The Prime Minister, as a custodian of national security and well-being, must refrain from flippant remarks about nuclear wars. Such conflicts are unwinnable and carry catastrophic consequences for humanity. Instead, leaders should prioritise diplomacy, dialogue, and conflict resolution to address geopolitical tensions and safeguard global stability.

While a country can choose its friends, it has to live with its neighbours. It is not for no reason that religious exhortations to love your neighbour like you love yourself are made. Modi himself invited the leaders of all the neighbouring countries to his swearing-in ceremony in 2014. Pakistan was one of them. It is a different matter that he saw the event as some sort of a coronation. Later, when Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was busy organising the wedding of his daughter at his ancestral house in west Punjab, Modi went there uninvited without a proper visa. Of course, he was gladly received and feted on the occasion.

Since then he has been keeping Pakistan at a distance. This does not speak well of a prime minister who is committed to pursuing best-neighbourly relations. Modi gave the Chinese leader a grand welcome in Gujarat. People still remember that picture which depicted the two strolling on the banks of the Narmada discussing bilateral relations. Today, their relationship is far from cordial. Modi is yet to admit that China grabbed some land in Ladakh.

China occupies Aksai Chin, which it captured long after PoK became "part" of Pakistan. Neither Modi nor Rajnath Singh talks about reoccupying the land about which Nehru once made the statement that not a blade of grass grew there. To that, an opposition leader retorted: "Panditji, there is not a single hair on your head. Will you agree to have the head severed?" It evoked laughter in Parliament. Diplomacy is too serious a matter to be left to semi-literates who pander to the basic instincts of their followers.

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