Can Pulwama alter the discourse of India's politics?
Despite terrorism being a political issue, our major parties need to resist playing games over it.
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If at all there was any silver lining to the ghastly suicide bombing of a CRPF bus by a jihad-infused, jannat-seeking, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) Kashmiri suicide bomber in Pulwama, it is the political maturity, responsibility and resolve displayed at the highest levels by both members of the government and leaders of Opposition.
A crucial moment
Amid the cold rage sweeping through the entire country, the message of political unity coming from the Opposition is a unique opportunity for the government to forge an unshakeable national consensus on tackling the menace of terrorism.
If grabbed, moments like Pulwama can prove pivotal in determining the future course and setting the rules on how India will fight and defeat terror and terror-sponsoring countries. However, if this moment is lost, India’s war on terror will once again descend into mutual recrimination and lose the momentum that is needed to lay the foundation of a policy that will be pursued for as long as it takes to fix the enemy and prevent it from ever raising its head against India.
Grabbing this moment is not to be construed as depoliticising terrorism and national security. Quite to the contrary, it will be politicising these issues, but in a way that they serve the national cause rather than plumb the depths of petty politics that is limited to taking jibes and making disparaging remarks about opponents.
Let’s face it. Terrorism is a political issue and it is natural for political parties to raise this issue because it impacts lives of people, the security of the country and has implications for the economy, politics as well as foreign relations. It is the Opposition’s job to hold the government accountable. And it is incumbent on the government to hold the Opposition’s feet to the fire if it prevaricates on taking a decisive stand simply to serve some short term political interest.
Terrorism is a political issue and it is natural for political parties to raise this issue. (Photo: PTI)
Change the discourse
If instead of taking silly potshots at each other or scoring petty political points, politicians try to improve policies to enhance the capacities and capabilities of our security forces, help in preparing the national response to a security threat and point out the blunders and mistakes of the opponents, it is to be welcomed. But just as governments should not be allowed to brush things under the carpet or avoid accountability, the Opposition too cannot and should not be allowed to adopt an ambivalent attitude towards terrorism. Instead of caviling over policy issues, if the politics is about competing with each other over a more solid policy framework, then it will make for a durable and robust policy.
Nothing impacts the morale of the men in uniform more than political bickering over petty issues or sidestepping of responsibility by the people in leadership positions. If anything, the security forces seriously evaluate their mistakes and try to ensure they are not repeated.
United we stand
Tough actions need to be taken to ensure something like a Pulwana never happpen again. (Photo: PTI)
Politicians also need to stop repeating the mistakes made by their competitors. So, if Prime Minister Narendra Modi indulged in grandstanding during the 26/11 attacks, there is no reason why the Congress should repeat that mistake. After the initial low-brow blows, the Congress President raised the bar and declared that the party will stand with the security forces and the Centre. There is a time and place to take jibes at the government and that time is not when the nation is outraged and hurting.
Raking up the past is not the most helpful way to build policy consensus. All parties and governments have made mistakes. If the Congress can be blamed for destabilising Kashmir in the 1980s, which became the precursor for the insurgency in the 1990s, the BJP too made a Faustian bargain with the People's Democratic Party which set the stage for the current round of disturbances.
Today, all political parties will be tempted to make political capital out of the Pulwama massacre. With general elections round the corner, political and electoral compulsions will force terrorism in general and Pulwama in particular to become major issues. This is unavoidable. However, if parties could compete with each other in framing a solid agenda to combat terrorism, the lives of 40 CRPF personnel will not have gone in vain.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)