On Saturday (24 September) evening at the sprawling Kozhikode beach, the air was full of expectations. Those part of the BJP public meeting and those watching through TV channels were all ears to the prime minister’s speech due to the mounting expectations from him. Obviously, people wanted the prime minister to say something with great certitude about the Uri attack.
Most were expecting some fireworks. Many wondered as to how the prime minister would deal with the groundswell of expectations from both hawks and moderates as the distance between them was largely perceived as unbridgeable. It was in this backdrop that Prime Minister Modi spoke at the BJP rally at Kozhikode.
To be honest, he did not disappoint either group. He handled the wide range of expectations with all the dexterity at his command, leaving his critics fuming, admirers happy and those in the middle perplexed.
Takeaways from PM Modi’s Speech
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at Pakistan, initially without referring to our neighbour in the west and later mounting a direct frontal attack. The essential takeaways from his speech were three.
- Firstly, without mincing words he placed the blame at the doors of
Pakistan to leave absolutely no doubts in anybody’s mind about the culpability
of our neighbouring country.
- Secondly, not to sound like a warmonger, he
consciously broadened the agenda of an Indo-Pakistani “war”, making it
competitive in the spirit of helping the poor and the underprivileged in both the countries and taking it to non-military frontiers, involving developmental
issues. This was a smart move, disallowing his critics to accuse him of being
- Thirdly, he left no one in the slightest doubt about India’s
resolve to pay back Pakistan in the same coin.
Emphasis on Isolating Pakistan
He was blunt in saying that although the current century is widely recognised as that of Asia, the prospects seem to have been dimmed, as “there is one particular country in Asia exporting terrorism across the world.”
This was a significant comment, as with that India made common cause with most Asian countries at the receiving end of terror, thereby ensuring — to start with — a perceptional isolation of Pakistan. In the course of his speech, he emphatically stated that India has already started to isolate Pakistan and will intensify its efforts to that end.
Challenging Pakistan on the Issue of Development
However, the most striking feature was Prime Minister Modi’s take-the-bull-by-the-horns attitude that came to the fore when he chided Pakistan on the issue of unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakhtunistan and Balochistan.
It was the same approach on impressive display when he almost jeered the Pakistani leadership, saying that if Pakistan desires, India is ready to wage a 1000-year-long war with Pakistan and then dramatically suggesting that the war he meant to wage was on various developmental fronts. “Let’s see who climbs up on the development ladder first,” he said, throwing the gauntlet at Pakistan.
Reaching Out to the People of Pakistan
The most remarkable aspect of his speech was him entering into a direct dialogue with the people of Pakistan. By doing so, he has quietly pointed out the disconnect between the people of Pakistan and their government, especially those who call the shots in the establishment.
Knowing fully well that amongst the development starved people of Pakistan, there is a definite constituency for socio-economic progress and good governance — two issues with which Narendra Modi gets easily identified with — he hit where it hurts the most. His appeal to the people of Pakistan could rightly be seen as an attempt to evolve a rapport with them via an indirect dialogue.
Besides, it could also be construed as a signal to the powers that be in Pakistan that, unlike any other country, India can easily start a conversation with the people of Pakistan (emphasising that people in both the countries share a common past), and thereby educate them about the failings of their own government. This, beyond doubt, was a masterstroke.
His statement that “A day will come when the people of Pakistan will go against their own government to fight terrorism” was easily one of the boldest and most aggressive statements to come from a serving Indian prime minister.
Building Psychological Pressure
The sum total of the messages that Prime Minister Modi gave, loudly and clearly, was that of the widening of agendas and taking the battle to the enemy’s ground. He did this by touching the raw nerve of huge and long-standing deprivation of the people of Pakistan. It shouldn’t take much for one to read between the lines and decipher what he left unsaid!
The message is unambiguous: While the challenge of terror will undoubtedly be met squarely, and perpetrators will not go unpunished, the fight may not remain confined to that. It may be taken to other areas, accentuating psychological pressure as well, as wars are fought and lost first in the mind and only later on the battlefield. This may well go down as another dimension of what they call track two diplomacy!
(The writer is BJP Vice-President and a Rajya Sabha member. He can be reached at @vinay1011. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)