During the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign, when Narendra Modi claimed to possess a 56-inch chest, his detractors, especially the Congress leaders, mocked and derided him.
They reminded him that for the prime minister, it wasn't the size of chest that mattered, but an inspiring vision for the nation to take it forward.
After India's surgical strike across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by specially trained commandos of Bihar and Dogra regiments, who destroyed seven terror launch pads, killing scores of terrorists, no one would ever doubt that Modi possesses, besides his 56-inch chest, exceptional leadership qualities.
For the first time since the Kargil conflict, the entire nation stands as one. Even Modi's bête noire Rahul Gandhi grudgingly admitted that Modi has acted as a PM should.
Why do we need national crises to unite? Why shouldn't there be a national consensus on vital issues despite ideological and political differences?
It was a meticulously planned operation based on credible intelligence, coordinated to perfection and executed flawlessly. Some overexcited admirers of Modi have rushed to compare Modi's leadership to Indira Gandhi.
When not a single Muslim country stood by India, midwifing the birth of Bangladesh in 1971, coping with ten million refugees and not getting intimidated by the Seventh Fleet of the US, was a totally different ballgame.
However, in the past one week, Modi has amply demonstrated that during a crisis he won't be less than Mrs Gandhi!
|Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif. (Photo credit: AP)|
All prime ministers of India since 1947 have attempted good neighbourly relations with Pakistan.
But none has staked so much political and personal prestige as Modi did when he stopped over in Lahore in December 2015 to wish Nawaz Sharif on his birthday.
Alas, the Pakistani PM didn't realise the enormity of Modi's simple but symbolically historic gesture. Barely a week later, the terror attack at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot gave ammunition to critics to trash his Pakistan policy as naive and disconnected with ground realities.
A deeply disappointed Modi was also stung by Sharif's scathing criticism in Pakistani Parliament of violations of human rights in J&K. Sharif hailed Burhan Wani, commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, who carried an award of Rs 10 lakh on his head.
Modi decided to take his velvet gloves off and show his iron fist. Methodically, he tried to isolate Pakistan by sensitising the international community about the scourge of terror and relentlessly reiterating where terror was coming from. He also authorised Indian diplomats to highlight violations of human rights in Pakistan.
His mention of excesses committed in Balochistan in his Independence Day speech was part of a campaign.
Modi left no one in doubt at the G-20 summit and the ASEAN summit when he singled out the country that exported terror and used terrorism as its state policy.
For the first time, the Indian ambassador raised the issue of violations of human rights in Balochistan at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Unmistakable thrust was: Pakistan was the hub of international terrorism.
The diplomatic offensive started paying dividends soon as two Congressmen in the US introduced a proposal to get Pakistan declared a terrorist state.
Some members of the European Union also demanded that economic sanctions should be imposed on Islamabad for human rights violations in Balochistan.
Earlier, during the Strategic & Commercial Dialogue in Delhi, US secretary of state John Kerry endorsed India's view on terror. Barring China, Pakistan has very few friends left.
The forthcoming SAARC summit in Islamabad has also been called off after India led its boycott.
The brazen attack on the military base camp in Uri last month that left 19 Indian soldiers dead was the most blatant provocation by Pakistan. They had underestimated Modi's resolve to hit back.
Despite the pressure to act, the PM has been statesmanlike during these tough days.
The cross-border surgical strike has shown how much Modi has grown in the last two years. Within hours after the strike, the Pakistani army was informed.
Our commandos struck only terrorist launch pads along the LoC and there was no strike at military posts.
Briefing Sonia Gandhi and leaders of other political parties was also wise and helped create a sense of national unity.
The shrewd politician and a consummate diplomat that he is, Modi killed several birds with a single stone.
The surgical strike was a warning shot to the Pakistani civilian and military establishment - that if you harbour terrorists and wage proxy wars, it won't go unpunished any more.
The likes of Masood Azhar will now fear for their lives. There was also a subtle message for China: that if it supports a terrorist state, one day it will face jihadi attacks.
Modi also benefited personally, as he emerged as a mature leader who will defend India's national interest but has no interest in escalating tensions with its neighbours.
The message was loud and clear: India is fighting terror and the world should join in this endeavour.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)