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TALKING IN MANY VOICES

The hysterical sabre-rattling led by the electronic media and supported by the leading opposition party, whose leader responded to the brutal decapitation of a jawan at the LoC by calling for 10 heads if the one was not returned to India, was further compounded by the lack of a substantive response from the government. Consequently, the country is, yet again, being forced to witness a clumsy display of feeble reactions and positions. It is disconcerting to have the prime minister issue a delayed statement on an emotive issue that has been hyped up by a myriad anchors. What is worse though is to see those holding senior positions in the government backtrack from that statement on the small screen. It makes one wonder if there is anyone in control. Why is it so difficult for a government to sit down and thrash out a calibrated response to Pakistan, and for the benefit of the citizens of this federal republic? Surely the most important priority for a leader is to lead from the front and convince his ‘subjects’ that he is conscious and ahead of every move that the Opposition or the enemy may be planning. Why is India being denied this basic need to feel safe and confident?

The saving grace was the explanation given by the general in charge of the Northern Command, who set down the ground realities in a calm and controlled manner that gave the impression of the army being in control at a time when the executive was coming across the footlights as confused and agitated. But it is certainly disturbing to see the army speaking more coherently than the executive. India is looking for a strong, committed leader, not a dictator or a fascist, and there is no reason whatsoever for political parties not to present desirable candidates to the people who must then elect the individual. We have, over the last many decades, suffered at the hands of vote-bank politics and politics determined by numbers that determine coalitions. There is thus no place for ideology or commitment to deliver initiatives and policies that will lift the poor out of the prevailing morass and offer clean and user-friendly practices and governance for the burgeoning entrepreneurial class. India has lost two decades, at least, in which the political class has worked only for its survival.

Deep unrest

While our television channels raise the decibel levels, Pakistan has entered a volatile phase. Anger and frustration are manifest in the form of protests on the streets that are being led by a cleric. The prime minister is under orders of arrest and another party in the opposition, led by the former captain of the Pakistan cricket team, Imran Khan, is raising its flag. Where does the army stand in this melee? Whom will the mullahs support? What is the intention of the Inter-Services Intelligence? What will be the impact on India when the United States of America pulls its troops out of Afghanistan? Is the conservative civil society — comprising professionals and ordinary citizens — ready to take on a corrupt establishment? Is there a popular democratic leader with a passion to liberate the country out of anarchy? Or is Pakistan headed towards military rule?

India should have walked the talk and ensured strong bi-lateral ties with all its neighbours and formed a bloc that the world would have had to contend with. Saarc is the largest marketplace as well as the largest repository of human resource and skill. India has failed to lead the region, and has managed to rub all the nations, except Bhutan, the wrong way. This regional economic power could have acted as a counterweight to the recession-prone West. Instead, the lack of intellectual acumen to create a robust strategy has debilitated South Asia.