EDITORIAL: Trying to be a steady disciple of Chanakya, who is traditionally identified as Kautliya or Vishnugupta, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi struggles to learn the art of providing alternate narrative if he finds his policies are in trouble costing him his popularity. He is mindful of the fact that over the last one year or so, his popularity ranking has alarmingly fallen. There is distrust about his government’s data of cases and deaths due to Covid-19; the farming community fiercely rejected his farm laws; inflation and unemployment are on the rise; and thanks to his ‘watchful eye’ India is fast becoming the largest illicit drug market in the world.
According to an India Today survey, Modi’s popularity ratings have fallen from 66 percent to 24 percent but he is making efforts aimed at providing alternate narratives. He has tried to win back farmers by repealing the farm laws enforced last year and is trying to shift the public focus from India’s failed economy to projecting India as a warrior state.
One such move is grant of country’s third highest bravery award Vir Chakra to Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. Who is this pilot and what kind of bravery he displayed? Abhinandan was captured by Pakistani troops on the ground on Feb 27, 2019 after his MiG-17 Bison aircraft was shot down by Pakistan Air Force in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. To avoid the possibility of being lynched by public that had surrounded him after his parachute landing inside Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the army jawans saved his life by taking him to a mess where they gave him a hot cup of tea. He was greatly impressed by their hospitality. Recording his impressions, he said: “I would like to put on record and will not change my statement if I go back to my country that I was treated well and my hosts were thorough gentlemen”. A week later, he was allowed to return to his country as a goodwill gesture to be received by unwilling Indian guards at Wagha, who forcefully pushed him into a van and took him away as if he was a classic traitor.
Abhinandan has surfaced now in compliance with Narendra Modi’s alternate narrative; the award citation being that “Despite being captured by the enemy, he continued to display exceptional resolve in dealing with the adversary in a stoic, brave and dignified manner till he was repatriated on March 1, 2019”.
Obviously, Pakistan is intrigued by the Indian move. The fact, however, is that India lost two jets. It also lost a helicopter that its own air force shot down, killing 16 military personnel. The Indian claim that Abhinandan had shot down an F-16 is not only an attempt to hide the embarrassment but also a fabrication and fantasy to appease domestic audience.
The Foreign Office of Pakistan has stoutly rejected the Indian claim that Pakistan lost in combat an F-16, reminding the public that it was a false claim as the United States had then carried out the count of Pakistan’s F-16s and found that none of them was missing. The Foreign Office also warned its hostile neighbour that Pakistan remains ready to thwart any hostile designs, as it did in Feb 2019. Given Modi’s many failures on the domestic front, India can repeat a false-flag operation in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Ironically, however, Modi has not studied Arthashastra carefully.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021