Between Rehman Malik and Narendra Modi ...

The future, despite the supposed joy of the festive season ahead, looks quite grim.


Jyoti Malhotra December 23, 2012

This past week in India, we’ve had to bite our tongue hard, hoping it, too, shall pass. First, Rehman Malik’s visit to Delhi to operationalise the visa agreement signed between himself and India’s former foreign minister SM Krishna left us wondering: what was the need for Malik to come and sign the document, yet again? But it seems he made it clear that unless he came to Delhi, Pakistan would hold up the visa regime. For over a year, former home minister P Chidambaram refused to give Malik a visa, insisting that he first take action against the Mumbai attackers. In retaliation, Malik cancelled a visit by the Indian home secretary to Islamabad in December 2011, who was coming to sign this very visa agreement. The agreement then went into cold storage and Malik moved on to other things.

Delhi couldn’t allow itself to forget an initiative that had taken so long to simmer. That is, use the constituency of the people of India and Pakistan who, despite the intervening decades, still have an abiding affection for each other to prise open the hard-edged attitudes of their establishments. Krishna was sent in September with the full knowledge that he was so gaffe-prone that it may just detract attention from the superb wig carefully crafted to suit his head.

So, Krishna signed the visa agreement that promised to overhaul a 1974 regime and instead open the iron curtain somewhat, allowing group tours and visa-on-arrival at Wagah/Attari for those 65 years of age and above. But Malik insisted he come to Delhi, a minor satrap visiting the capital of the old empire. He got his chance — and he blew it. Everywhere Malik went in Delhi, he embarrassed his hosts, first comparing the Mumbai attacks with the demolition of the Babri Masjid (implying that this, too, shall pass), dismissing the torture and mutilation injuries on the body of Kargil war hero Saurabh Kalia as those having been caused by inclement weather (they weren’t), and much more. To his credit, he admitted that al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri, who later became a star of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, was a retired general of the Pakistan Army (this even surprised the Pakistani press). Moreover, in what was one of his more forward-looking moments, he suggested that India and Pakistan share intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks. Almost as an aside, he re-signed the visa agreement and Delhi heaved a sigh of relief.

And now for Gujarat. What does one do to a wildly popular chief minister who refuses to apologise for the killings and torture of a thousand of his own state subjects? Narendra Modi has become the chief minister of Gujarat for the third time but refused to field even one Muslim candidate in the elections. Asking Gujarat’s Muslims if they remember the 2002 pogrom or if they’ve moved on from that memory and hope to rebuild their lives anew can only be adding insult to injury.

Gujarat’s mercantilism has always used religion as a metaphor, both to unite and to divide. Modi may want to move on from Gujarat to the centre and want his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to put him up as its prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 elections. But for the time being, the BJP is not biting as its leaders realise that India is too diverse to fall into the Modi trap and that Modi is not Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2002. The week has, thankfully, passed. The future, despite the supposed joy of the festive season ahead, looks quite grim.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2012.

COMMENTS (29)

Cynical | 8 years ago | Reply

@Yuri Kondratyuk

@Jyoti Malhotra: M’am, truth doesn’t need to be nice

Now we know why Modi apologists go berserk each time Gujarat 2002 riot is mentioned.

JLI | 8 years ago | Reply

@Gary:

That statement is wrong. The BJP does field Muslim candidates. They actually won a lot of Muslim majority districts.

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