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26 February, 2019 11:00:15 AM

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Modi versus Modi

The government had decided to take all possible diplomatic steps to ensure Pakistan's isolation and has withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan
Kumkum Chadha
Modi versus Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has walked the talked. He may have faltered in his step at some points but he surely has covered the distance.

Modi had faltered when he went to receive Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman at the airport. Ordinarily, the prime minister would not receive a foreign dignitary at the airport, but instead send an official or a junior government minister. The bear hug that followed was frowned upon by Indians because during his visit to Pakistan before landing in India, the crown prince said Saudi Arabia had signed investment agreements worth $20 billion. Against this backdrop Modi’s warm welcome to the Prince did not go down well among Indians.
Post Pulwama there is anger, anguish and grief. Indians stood united and there was one overriding sentiment: avenge the deaths of our jawans. This was one of the biggest attacks in Jammu and Kashmir since the Uri Army camp strike in September, more than two years ago.
This week, at least 44 CRPF jawans were killed in Pulwama when terrorists targeted a CRPF convoy, which was moving from Jammu to Srinagar. It had over 70 vehicles and more than 2,500 personnel.
The heinous  attack by a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) led suicide bomber Adil Ahmed Dar, 20, to ram a SUV loaded with 350 kilograms of explosives into one of the buses carrying the   troopers.  

But for the welcome and bear hug to the Crown Prince, Modi has made the right noises and also demonstrated in action that India will not indulge in word diplomacy but will take concrete steps in giving a befitting reply to Pakistan. He warned that those responsible for the Pulwama terror attack would pay a "very heavy price" and had made a "big mistake".

For starters, the Security forces have been given permission to take decisions about the timing, place and nature of their response Modi said stating that this is an “India of new convention and policy."

 The government had decided to take all possible diplomatic steps to ensure Pakistan's isolation and has withdrawn the Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan. The status of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) is given to a trade partner to ensure non-discriminatory trade between two countries. This decision means Pakistan would no more get preference in trade agreements.

The government also announced that it was hiking customs duty on import of all goods from Pakistan to 200 per cent with immediate effect. India mainly imports fruits and nuts, gypsum, sulphur, finished leather goods, ores, mineral oils and cement. India has suspended the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack. The key bus service connects Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

More importantly, India has decided to pull the plug on its share of water from eastern rivers that was flowing to Pakistan. The decision, part of the retaliatory measures being adopted by the government, means that India would stop its share of water from three eastern rivers, namely Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, from flowing to Pakistan. The water would be diverted to serve the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab: "The construction of dam has started at Shahpur-Kandi on Ravi river. Moreover, UJH project will store our share of water for use in J&K and the balance water will flow from 2nd Ravi-BEAS Link to provide water to other basin states," Gadkari said.

Under the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, India has complete rights over three common rivers, namely Ravi, Beas and Sutlej and Pakistan has control over the waters from Jhelum, Chenab and Indus.

Of the total 168 million acre-feet, India's share of water from the three rivers is 33 million acre-feet, which constitutes nearly 20 per cent. India uses nearly 93-94 per cent of its share under the Indus Waters Treaty. The rest of the water remains unutilised and flows to Pakistan. This is the water that India has decided to stop.

The step is long overdue because after the attack at the CRPF camp at Uri in 2016 by Pakistani terrorists, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, "Blood and water cannot flow simultaneously". He now seems determined to walk the talk.

The Pulwama attack has come on the eve of the Indian elections which are barely two months away hence any offensive or lack of it will impact Modi’s electoral prospects. From this being a Rahul Gandhi versus Narendra Modi election or one that is between the BJP and other anti Modi Opposition parties, it is now a Modi versus Modi election. Modi has to match up to his self-created image of a doer or a Prime Minister who believes in action and in this context all eyes are on him whether he will take concrete action to avenge Pulwama or depend on mere words and rhetoric. The surgical strikes post Uri and the overwhelming support that the Indian people gave to the operation did demonstrate that people want Pakistan to be punished. This time around they want “something bigger”.

The hysteria bordering on a limited war, if  something like that is even possible, is enough to signal that whatever Modi does will have the backing of Indians across the country. Indians are restless for a military offensive and feel that only a Prime Minister like Modi has the grit and determination can take on Pakistan. It is perhaps in this context that Modi has coined a new slogan centering around himself thus:   “People know Modi hai to mumkin hai” (People know that if Modi is there, it is possible).

In a recent India Today Axis poll, Indians overwhelmingly believe Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the most capable leader to deal with terrorism. The poll was conducted across 29 states post Pulwama wherein 49 per cent of respondents pick Narendra Modi as their most preferred choice to lead India's fight against terror; Rahul only 15 percent and Manmohan Singh 3 percent.

This amply substantiates that the electoral battle will be Modi versus Modi: Modi the doer versus one who indulges in rhetoric. It is a tough call because people expect him to strike back militarily and if he falls short of their expectations, he fails them. Another thing that emerges from the current scenario  clearly is Modi’s electoral advantage and Rahul Gandhi being  pushed into the background.

In the current tension escalating between India and Pakistan, people feel safer with an experienced and seasoned leader rather than a novice. Rahul is seen as one and while Manmohan Singh has the experience of being Prime Minister he is dismissed as one who was weak and not in control of things.

Pulwama has made majority of Indians feel very insecure who feel that India’s security on the borders is in danger. Nothing unites Indians more than nationalism and patriotism and at a time like this they feel that a strong leader at the helm is the only answer. It is here where Modi is likely to score electorally because Pulwama and Pakistan have robbed the Indian elections of all its domestic issues the overriding being Punish Pakistan. With a possibility of a war looming they are unlikely to moot for a change because by all calculations Modi seems to be their best bet. This is amply substantiated by the aforesaid poll conducted. Therefore precious lives have been lost but the BJP and Modi have seen a focus shift from the electorate counting Modi’s weaknesses to one who can take on Pakistan. Fit the slogan Modi hai to mumkin hai in this scenario and it would perhaps work this time around.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com)

SHK

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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