What is an Indian election without mentioning Pakistan? It's incomplete, perhaps even boring to some, after all they are our more than often volatile neighbour. Even if nothing has been said, the baiting never stops, until somehow Pakistan is dragged into the mix. The twenty-four hour cycle of news, of course, does not help one bit.
According to reports, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi allegedly told a Gujarati news channel that if he comes into power, he will ‘attack’ Islamabad in order to get fugitive Dawood Ibrahim, the mastermind behind the 1993 Bombay blasts, known to be hiding across the border. This, of course got a strong reaction from Islamabad. The sentiment behind what Modi is known to have said apparently comes from his understanding of how America operationalised the raid that got Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad. The reports available are not completely clear in what Modi said.
However, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan has chosen to react, and has reportedly said that Modi as India’s leader would “destabilise” the region. In return, BJP spokesperson Minakshi Lekhi has asked Pakistan to not “interfere” in India’s domestic matters.
Now, it is actually condemnable that such remarks have been made by someone from our political class this late into an election campaign laden with hyperbolic chest-thumping from all political corners. Considering what the Congress says today, is now irrelevant, for the next five years at least, Modi who is expected to become the next prime minister now needs to step off the rhetoric ladder and start acting like a statesman ready to represent the world’s biggest democracy.
In recent TV interviews, when often asked why he had made an inflammatory statement, he usually side-steps by saying it happens in the heat of election campaigning. Not this, though. If he indeed suggested he wanted to do an Abbottabad to get Dawood Ibrahim, he is either being advised by a simpleton or does not know where to draw a red line.
However, it is also important to realise here that interior minister of Pakistan making such statements is basically him addressing the population of Pakistan, which has been observing and discussing the Indian elections with great interest. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry along with its High Commissioner in New Delhi, Abdul Basit, have said that that they will work with any government which will win the on-going elections. Basit while addressing Indian press said, “As far as Pakistan is concerned we will be working with any government. Our effort will be to see how our two countries can be engaged with each other to resolve our issues, disputes and move ahead rather than be stuck in the past.”
If Modi made the above mentioned statement, it is almost obvious that Pakistan will reply to it, maybe not so much as to send India a message, but send its own people a message that it is not being bogged down by such jibes from India’s incoming prime minister. However, extra precaution should be taken by all parties concerned (including the media) to not convert such issues into incidents.