Mad at Pakistan? Writing it down helps cool the brain
(Published today in Business Standard)
Dear Pakistani state,
In diplomatic terms, as we all know, you’re a sovereign power, an ally of both the US and China, and an important player in the fight against terrorism. In reality, though, as we all know, you’re a regional nuisance, and a massive pain in the neck of the world.
You could be best known for your ancient historical sites, your music, wildly popular television soaps, good food, and wonderful writers. But your defining cultural export, today, is religious fundamentalist terrorism.
You behave like the jobless, emotionally unstable neighbourhood resident who spends his days drinking and thrashing his family, and his nights setting fire to the neighbours’ cats. When called to account, you lie about it loudly, while stroking your nukes.
All this makes you difficult to like; a BBC poll a couple of years ago placed you second to the bottom on a list of favourably viewed countries. But then, you aren’t in a popularity contest. You’re too busy acting out childhood traumas, like the perennial adolescent who can never get over blaming his parents. Go ahead and make blustering speeches at the UN—everyone remembers you for stuff like Mumbai 26/11, and hosting Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. You keep talking about how Pakistanis are the greatest sufferers of terrorism, but not only do you gladly harbour vipers like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, you enthusiastically defend them; and your poisonous terror training camps attract jihad-happy wannabes from all over the world.
You get away with sponsoring terrorism in India because the option to this endless, blood-soaked tit-for-tat is for India to go full-on postal—and we don’t want to do that, because we’re not mental. Your low-grade tactics are enough to keep us bleeding, but not enough to provoke war. You know perfectly well that it if came to that, if it came to full-on postal, mental, stupid, unnecessary, conventional war, you would lose.
Yet, you suggest that India is killing its own soldiers to make Pakistan look bad. It makes you sound nuts—but after years of playing the aggrieved whiner, all you can really do is pretend that you like riding your hand-reared tiger-turned-maneater. No matter what the world says, no matter what the evidence, no matter how much it costs your own country, you’ll keep going back to your nasty little theocratic-geopolitical project, glorifying death, spreading terror among innocents, provoking contempt and fury, and bringing the consequences of your bloodlust down mostly on the shoulders of your own citizens. Because you don’t seem to know any other way to be.
Cheers, and go stick your head in a bucket,
Well, it felt good to say all that. Now for us.
All you patriots raring to ‘teach Pakistan a lesson’—I really can’t think of a more self-defeating way to honour the dead soldiers in Uri than to send a ton more live ones off to get killed. Quit screaming for them to be sent to slaughter just because you’re feeling righteous, sitting in the news studio or on the internet in your civvies. You’re confusing having a tantrum with looking manly. If you’re feeling patriotic, go to a military recruitment office and sign up your own butt.
To the military: We appreciate everything you do for us civilians. Nobody’s perfect, and soldiers risk their lives by definition; losses are inevitable. But we need to know that you’re doing your very best by our soldiers, from equipment to infrastructure to intelligence to training to command. From what we’re hearing in the aftermath of the Uri attack, it’s not clear that this is true—and if it is, then your best is not yet good enough. Pathankot is still fresh in our minds. The point is not to berate the military—what do I know, sitting on the internet in my civvies? But I can, in my civvies, justifiably ask what the military is doing to maximise our soldiers’ chances in a dangerous part of the world.
As for our politicians: Nobody is forgetting that you don’t help with your handling of Kashmir, where you seek to quell with brute force, instead of working to win over an understandably disgruntled population. Now that the Prime Minister finds himself squeezed between rashly muscular electoral promises and considerably more nuanced ground realities, we can only hope that he will find an ‘Indian’ enough virtue in a measured response, even if it exposes his rabid hyper-nationalism project for the hollow, dangerous sham that it is, even if it turns hothead political friends into hothead political enemies.
Pakistan lives to provoke, but we have much more to gain from standing down from a position of untenable aggression and putting our own house in order instead.