When Prime Minister rendra Modi in his Kozhikode address on Saturday thundered of a war against chronic poverty, illiteracy and joblessness, a sizeable number of Pakistan haters must have felt let down. There were expectations that the PM would let loose a strong message to the neighboring country from the BJP’s tiol executive meet. He did speak about isolating Pakistan in the world stage as an exporter of terrorism; but then he twisted Islamabad’s rhetoric of ‘fighting a thousand year war against India’ to comment that both tions should fight poverty, unemployment and illiteracy, and ‘let’s see who wins’. So was PM Modi being merely clever with his words as is his wont? While he did seem to play to the gallery again, some serious thought is necessary why he spoke of battling enemies common to both neighbors. The warlike hysteria gripping sections of the media and spilling over into the general populace has not been conducive to reasoned thinking. Islamabad thought it fit to take advantage of the anger in Kashmir over a Hizbul commander’s death; Pakistani emissaries have gone complaining to other countries against India. In turn, PM Modi raised the sub-tiol feelings smoldering in Balochistan and Sindh. Both the countries then went hammer and tongs against each other at the UN General Assembly, with the fidayeen attack at the Uri army camp adding fuel to the war of words. But is this strike, dastardly though it is — in the same league as the terror attack on the Indian parliament in 2001? There were around a hundred MPs inside as the attack unfolded, while eight security personnel outside lost their lives fighting off the terrorists. The Vajpayee government responded with Operation Parakram, massing lakhs of troops near the line of control. Better sense prevailed only after the three service chiefs made a hard-headed assessment of a possible war scerio.
That was 15 years ago; the stakes have only gotten higher since then. Sections in Islamabad may well threaten using the nuclear option, but such lucy is in the realm of mindless terrorist talk. As a responsible democracy, India cannot subscribe to any loose talk about ‘mutually assured destruction’, however much Beijing and Islamabad needle it with their coordited pressure tactics. In fact, Pakistan has been paying dearly for its policy to make India ‘bleed from a thousand cuts’ by sponsoring terror across the border; it is itself hemorrhaging with terrorists of all hues having a free run, altertely striking shady deals and falling out violently with the army. The twin band-aids of religion and anti-India sentiment can only hold on so much. If at all there is to be a war, it should really be on all fronts against endemic backwardness that has made South Asia a perennial trouble spot. India should get back to a growth trajectory of 8 percent and more, and worry about how to meet sustaible development goals by 2030 it had committed itself to at the UN last year. According to a recent UNESCO report, India will be fully half a century late in achieving its universal education goals; it will achieve universal primary education only by 2050, universal lower secondary education by 2060 and universal upper secondary education as late as 2085. Long before then, it would have surpassed Chi as the world’s most populous country. Feeding over 1.8 billion mouths estimated would be only half this daunting story; jobs must be generated in equal measure too. Considered a frontline state in the world’s battle against poverty, India will have to do far, far better than the jobless growth model it has been saddled with. Fortutely, Prime Minister Modi has promised at Kozhikode that India will ratify on October 2 the CoP21 Paris protocol to battle climate change. The government has thus made a course correction from its ill-thought move to link ratifying the protocol with getting entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). With 60 countries including Chi already on board with the US, India cannot afford to be isolated at the world stage as it takes the long road towards development.