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Extreme jingoism may boomerang on India

Having sounded the war bugle over the killing of 17 Indian soldiers in a suspicious terror attack in Indian-administered-Kashmir’s Uri town on Sept. 18, New Delhi seems to have settled for a quite surrender after taking its propaganda warfare to a practically unsustainable level.
From mounting hit-and-run operation deep inside Pakistani administered territory to abrogating the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty that governs the water-sharing arrangement for six rivers of the Indus basin flowing through both India and Pakistan, security pundits have been advising Indian Premier Narendra Modi on every conceivable action that can be launched to push Islamabad to the wall. And yes, this “isolate Pakistan” concept, involving a laborious process of crying and begging in front of big powers to make them heed to Indian request, has not only received full support at the government level but also encouraged the ultra-jingoist Hindu nationalist constituency to spread war hysteria. While poignant images of deceased soldiers’ distraught family members receiving coffins are bound to be heart-wrenching, a deliberate attempt is being made at the official level to exploit this gloom and turn it into a rage. And very unfortunately, citizens in Mahatma Gandhi’s India are busy sharing propagandistic-cum-jingoist images, apart from offering innumerable strategies to cripple Pakistan permanently. At a time when creating peace constituencies should have been the priority of the government, it is indeed uncomfortable for any sane individual to watch helplessly how public opinion is sought to be incited by forcing even the mainstream media to propagate falsehood. Ordinary Indians were literally led up the garden path and made to believe that the international community was rooting for India and that they stand in full support of New Delhi’s attempt to punish its western neighbor adequately.
In reality, New Delhi’s strategic choices are limited, if not nil, given the strategic parity that Pakistan has acquired after developing tactical nuclear weapons to neutralize enemy threats. Notwithstanding the prejudiced interpretation of international reaction, post Uri attack, by Indian security analysts, the global community, in fact, has distanced itself from Indian establishment’s war-cry, nudging both New Delhi and Islamabad, instead, to sit across the table and settle all pending issues amicably. All statements, coming from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to other world leaders, have emphasized upon the need for restraint and encouraged the stakeholders to meet their respective responsibilities of maintaining peace and stability in the extended South Asian region. Even an all-weather friend like Russia has signaled its clear intent to move forward with the long-term objective of building a strong plinth for a robust Pakistan-Russia bilateral partnership to stand on in the future, disregarding India’s plea to abandon such idea. Rather, Russia’s political and military leadership sincerely believes that the development of constructive relations between Moscow and Islamabad will be an important factor in ensuring regional stability and international security — the reason why Russian troops landed in Pakistan to participate in its first-ever joint military exercise with the Cold War rival, days after the Uri incident.
Unfortunately, Modi’s jingoistic India is somehow missing the point that the world in general will be averse to a nation, where more than two third of its people clamor for violent conflict, taking a place in the high table of global politics or international institutions, entrusted with the responsibility of peace enforcement. Worse still, India is fast turning into a country with a rogue mind-set, whose leadership can even contemplate starving a lower riparian neighboring state of water. Yashwant Sinha, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party colleague of Modi, who served as India’s external affairs minister previously, while advising the Indian government to annul the critical Indus Waters Treaty with immediate effect, wrote categorically in a newspaper article “treaty terms are observed between friends, not enemies. Pakistan is an enemy state of India…India will, therefore, be fully justified in abrogating the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan.” And to this writer’s extreme dismay, Modi, according to establishment sources, is seriously toying with this idea of squeezing Pakistan by stopping or reducing water flow in the Indus River and its tributaries.
Does Modi not know that tinkering with this water sharing covenant with the motive to parch Indus basin tantamount to butchering 190 million people across the western frontier by cutting off their lifeline? After all, nearly 70 percent of Pakistan’s geographical area, including its granary Punjab, is fed by Indus. Moreover, the country’s vast canal irrigation system, the world’s largest, is completely dependent on water from Indus and its tributaries. Besides, Pakistan’s three largest dams located in the Indus basin are sources for hydroelectricity, irrigation and drinking water for millions of Pakistani citizens.
By turning off the tap, Modi can bring Islamabad to its knees, but will simultaneously induce extreme anti-India sentiments in other neighboring states of South Asia, apart from causing annoyance in global capitals. So, Modi needs to be firmly reminded that creating such disastrous precedent, of converting water into a strategic tool, will boomerang on India, whose fertile plains are mostly watered by rivers originating in Tibet.

Seema Sengupta is a Calcutta-based journalist and columnist