It is unfortunate that at a time when an array of issues are crying for urgent attention, and action on the domestic front and at the international level where India could play a global leadership role, the Narendra Modi government is busy harping on terrorism emanating from Pakistan. Delivering a lecture at the prestigious The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar dwelt on Pakistan as a hub of terror whose “primary export” is terrorism. While Pakistan and especially its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have for decades used terrorism as state policy and nurtured outfits to carry out terrorist attacks in India and other countries, the Narendra Modi government seems obsessed with drawing global attention to the problem. It has been going on and on about Pakistan’s support to terror groups at every forum, even if these meetings have nothing to do with counter-terrorism. For instance, TERI is engaged in research and advocacy on issues like climate change. While Jaishankar spoke about the importance of multilateralism too, his focus on terrorism underscored yet again the Modi government’s preoccupation with Pakistan and terrorism. India’s diplomacy has sunk to that of Pakistan. While Islamabad obsesses over Kashmir at every opportunity, India cannot take its eyes off Pakistan.
Terrorism is an important global and Indian concern. However, India has managed to contain it by and large and major terrorist attacks by groups based in Pakistan have reduced over the years. Terrorism is not an existential threat to our country anymore and a country of India’s size and capacity cuts a sorry figure when it persists with whining and whimpering at every available forum about its woes with its troublesome neighbour. Does it not have the capacity to speak directly to Pakistan? Does it have to complain at every global meeting and to every visiting dignitary about its problems with Pakistan to get bilateral issues resolved?
In recent years, India’s diplomatic energies have been dissipated by its obsession with getting Pakistan reprimanded internationally. In the process, geopolitical issues including the Chinese threat to our border, Beijing’s growing strategic ties with countries in the Indian Ocean Region and its mounting influence in the neighbourhood have taken a backseat. Endlessly raising Pakistan and terrorism is useful to the Modi government’s Hindutva agenda; it also keeps the public’s attention diverted away from its poor governance and failures in dealing with the economic crisis, the pandemic, etc. India has the capacity to play a leadership role on global issues like climate change and environment. Under Modi, it has abdicated this role.