Now that Abhinandan Varthaman, the brave pilot who conducted himself with grace under ‘fire’, has returned safely, it is time that we examine the political leadership which has equally shown a new resolve and sincerity of purpose through the whole episode. In his first address after the airstrikes, PM Modi had assured the people of this country that they are in safe hands. When he said, “I swear I won’t let India slow down and bow down,” the PM has communicated directly to the people that come what may, the leader at the top has taken it upon himself to protect the country and his countrymen.
This was after he had already set in motion a string of measures in the immediate aftermath of Pulwama, signalling his strong resolve that the Pulwama attack was not to be responded in the business as usual mode: giving of free hand to Indian army, eliminating the Pulwama mastermind, the revocation of MFN, withdrawal of security of separatist leaders, diplomatic isolation of Pakistan internationally, and presenting a united front. Read our piece Pulwama No More Business As Usual
Bulwark of Support Behind Armed Forces: A Striking Contrast to UPA
As compared to the UPA government of Manmohan Singh, there is a clear difference in how Mr Modi’s government has taken security issues head on. When Mr Modi gave a carte blanche to the army immediately after Pulwama, he stood firmly behind the armed forces, just as a strong leader does. In contrast, in the aftermath of 2008 Mumbai attacks, even when the Indian Air Forces had been ready for an operation against terrorists and its backers in Pakistan, it couldn’t follow it through only because no go-ahead was given from the then Central government run by the UPA.
Nation Above Everything Else
At Churu when Mr Modi said, “We are a government that thinks a group is bigger than an individual, and the nation is bigger than any group,” the Prime Minister has extolled the virtues and glory of nationalism and the role that it has in giving character to a country and its people. By emphasising the relative precedence of a nation over group, and a group over individual, the PM has sought to harness the collective energy of the country towards building a strong and secure India while rejecting the narrow and divisive impulses of ‘individualism’.
Taking the Battle to Enemy’s Camp
With Surgical Strikes 2.0, this is the first time since 1971 that the Indian air forces have entered beyond LoC deep, and even crossed Pakistani borders into the country. This again reaffirms the strong leadership credentials of Mr Modi.
Putting Pakistan on the Defensive
When Mr Modi mentioned Pakistan’s record of human rights infringements in Balochistan, Gilgit and PoK from the ramparts of the Red Fort in his 15th August 2016 address, he literally took the battle directly to Pakistan’s camp. By pointing out Pakistan’s excesses in these regions and his solidarity with the people there, he had put Pakistan on the defensive. Then ever since the airstrikes, the fact that Pakistani airspace (with exceptions now) has remained closed speaks of the psychological impact that the Indian operations against terror have had on the Pakistan state.
Striking Fear in Terrorists’ and their Backers Minds
The fact that Masood Azhar, the JEM Chief, has been transferred in hiding to some unknown location within Pakistan, implies the shuddering fear that India has caused to the terror operatives and their handlers.
Adding teeth to India’s Firepower
In addition to achieving a nuclear triad, Mr Modi has set in motion a $ 250 billion push to boost the country’s firepower making up for a 30-year lapse in country’s firepower procurement program.
Outwitting Pakistan Diplomatically
Display of Statesmanship Par Excellence
Mr Modi’s leadership and foresight are not limited to invocation of nationalism for the collective good of the nation. He has also managed to get countries such as China, a well-known Pakistan sympathiser, onboard post-Pulwama.
Crucially, after the air strikes by the Indian air forces on JEM hideouts across Pok and Pakistan, China has taken a somewhat mellowed and restrained stance on the subject. Instead of outrightly condemning India’s air strikes, it has urged both the countries to “exercise restraint”. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang has said, “We hope that both India and Pakistan can exercise restraint and adopt actions that will help stabilise the situation in the region and improve mutual relations.” Notably, China had signed the UN Security Council statement naming and condemning JEM.
And the Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has convincingly briefed the Foreign Ministers at the Russia-India-China (RIC) meet at the Chinese city of Wuzhen in the eastern Zhejiang province one day after the airstrikes.
Therefore, the air Strikes against JEM is just one example of what a strong leadership at the top at the head of a strong government can do. When Mr Modi said at Churu, “India needs a strong government…” he was not mincing his words. Only a strong government can really ensure the safety and security of its citizens. And Pakistan’s handing over of Abhinandan Varthaman exemplifies India’s strong leadership position. It must also be mentioned that India is not going to merely reconcile with the return of the pilot. Until the JEM Chief and his close associates are brought to justice, the strong leadership at the top will not relent.