Shahid Javed Burki, one of Pakistan’s most prominent economists who served as Vice President of the World Bank from 1994-1999, sat at a coffee shop in London sometime in 1999. His words echo to this day in a journalist’s ears. Shahid Burki claimed that in 15 years, India would be in a position to decide whether Pakistan secures loans and funding from International Financial institutions. The Indian lobby is strong, and it is stronger across the board from the United States Capitol Hill in Washington to corridors of financing in in IMF, World Bank and so on. Capitol Hill for e.g. houses the US India Political Action Committee, which delivered several briefings to members of Congress and the Senate.
These included obtaining approval and support for the infamous India-US nuclear deal in 2008 and securing easier immigration policies for Indian citizens. It is currently also propagating for listing Pakistan on the FATF list (the list of damned countries that are involved in terror/terror group financing.
In the recent India-Pakistan warring on the Line of Control, and all the drama ranging from Abhinandan’s release to India’s bloated claims of killing 350 terrorists on mountain tops of Balakot, we often lose lost sight of the heart of the matter. And for that, Bharatiya Jannata Party’s hardcore, grass roots strategy must be analysed. The strategy is as follows- Since coming to power, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has exercised power and authority to shape and craft narratives that drive superior form of Hindi identity and pride. Indian history books have been subjected to unparalleled assault by Hindu Right. Credible reports note that the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, headed by Dinanath Batra sent the National Council for Education and Research Training a list of recommendations on how to make school textbooks less biased.
Some of the Required cuts included: From the class seven history book, a line that claimed Mughal Emperor Akbar introduced a “Sulah-e-Kul policy,” which allowed followers of all religions to have an equal place before God’s grace should be removed. Similarly, a section on the caste system in the class 12 history book which criticised Brahmins using birth as an indicator of prestige. The cuts mentioned above showcase the strategy of Hindutva ideologues to eliminate any critique of the caste system, and to eradicate even marginally positive accounts of India’s Mughal rulers. This is precisely what Indian academic and scholar Shakuntyala Banaji called ‘The narrative that posits Hinduism as enlightened and Islam as benighted, Hinduism as peace-loving and Islam as violent, no hint that any previous Muslim rulers had modern, liberal or secular ideas and non-violent practices can be allowed to’.
Even before Pakistan can be or could be blamed for supporting Jaish-e-Muhammad or Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the BJP had involved itself in mass level grass roots campaigning to create an identity out of the other since 1980 when it was noted that a Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had used textual readings and face-to-face discussions about the path for a Hindu nation by employing cassette-tape and video-based communication. This was an attempt to gain mass popularity for aggressive Hindutva across the country and to win voters for the BJP. Guardian newspaper in the UK once published an article explaining the violent role orchestrated by BJP and RSS in the Barbri masjid chaos which ensued Muslim and Hindu communities.
The consequence of this is clear cut as we come across reports of Muslim men and women tortured over beef eating or perhaps widespread cases of minority marginalisation. The manifestation of this on a structural level is far more concerning. Those who participated in and turned a blind eye to the mass-murder of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 under sitting Prime Minister Modi, many of those fascist groups and police won promotions owing to their participation in the violence. On a holistic level, Indians and Pakistanis are now more at odds than ever. Educated, well aware and those with the ability to filter facts from the nonsense are polarised.
On a people to people level, it is evident that majority of the Indians are of the view that Pakistan backs terrorist groups whereas majority of the Pakistanis view Modi as anti-Muslim and almost a Pakistan hater. The system is rigged for an impasse i.e. the prism with which populace of both nations view each other’s governments and to an extent each other is more polarised than before. While Pakistan had spent years and decades on establishing a national security wisdom centred on an Indian threat, the BJP has successfully prepared a generation of nationalists who are ready to blame every attack on Pakistan and consider it’s eradication a sign of Hindu prosperity. This has, unfortunately, terrifying similarities to the Jewish threat that Hitler’s Germany focused on.
At a situation of grave incompatibility, it makes full sense when both countries dominated by nationalist sentiments champion their JF-17 thunders and MIG 21’s. But from a Pakistani standpoint, Modi is winning on all levels; domestic and international. Indians unanimously, without a shred of proof, placed responsibility of the attack on Pakistan’s military establishment. Internationally, China didn’t voice a statement in our favour during the crisis. Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) resolution did not even mention Kashmir whereas the western powers launched another UN resolution to put Masood Azhar (leader of JEM) on the list of banned individuals. France clearly argued India was correct to carry out airstrikes in Pakistan to protect itself from terrorist groups.
This is bad news, primarily because most of our negotiations with IMF will boil down to whether Pakistan finances terror groups. If Indian lobbying and well-constructed narrative succeeds in placing Pakistan on the FATF list, our chances of raising significant finances from the IMF and other financial institutes to move the country out of deep economic recession will be at greater risk. Politically, India is united behind the flag of Pakistani threat due to years of indoctrination of Hindu supremacy at all levels of society. Literature and research already proves Indian judiciary, government and civil bureaucracy have all been susceptible to this influence.
Our efforts against terrorism and immense sacrifices have gone unnoticed vis a vis Indian lobbying and propaganda but Pakistan has clearly failed to convince and demonstrate it’s willingness/national consensus to international community regarding assets which have become liabilities. And whilst, India has gone through its biggest transformation in the last 3 decades and now in the midst of a madman on top, let us not forget Dawn leaks. The man who broke the story is facing a treason charge while the man who was subject of the story is in prison. Perhaps, Shahid Javed Burki, now 80 and once neglected in favour of Shaukat Aziz for Prime Ministership was right in 1999-India could one day be in a position to determine international attitudes to Pakistan. That day is now.