By Sushil Kutty
It’s embarrassing to watch and listen to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spokespersons and Modi’s ‘friendly Media’ cohorts trying desperately to establish a narrative to rationalize Modi’s decision to ‘engage’ with Taliban “terrorists”. Till before Tuesday evening, BJP spokespersons stuck with the ‘terrorists’ label for the Taliban usurpers of Afghanistan, but, since then, there’s disengagement from the word ‘terrorists’ vis a vis the Taliban.
So, are the Taliban terrorists? Sambit Patra and Gaurav Bhatia beat around the bush Wednesday evening. Spare spokespersons Sanju Verma and Nupur Sharma could not pronounce ‘terrorist’. And, all in all, the entire lot of the ‘Godi Media’ refused to lynch the Modi Government for its suddenly diffident stance on Taliban terrorists. Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami flayed “Indian Taliban supporters”, like poet Munavar Rana, but when confronted with why Modi was smiling at terrorist Taliban, there was deflection.
Goswami said “Indian supporters of the Taliban” are “terror supporters” and, therefore, “Pakistan supporters”; therefore, also LeT and JeM “supporters”. Deal with the domestic supporters of the Taliban with the toughest laws available, he shouted, but when told that the Government of India supported the “Taliban terrorists”, there was only silence from the loudest nationalist in the realm.
Otherwise quick witted, Goswami seemed to have left his ‘memory’ at home, he forgot that the Modi Government’s stance had always been that “terror and talks cannot go together”, and that this piece of foreign policy kept Pakistan displaced, disjointed and helpless on the Kashmir issue. Add to that the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, and Pakistan and its Kashmiri supporters were totally at sea. Now, even the most effective and vocal separatist Ali Shah Geelani was dead.
But Geelani must have noticed before he breathed his last that things were turning: India was talking, and talking with terrorists at that, the Taliban. That this opened up a whole new gamut of openings, and opportunities for terrorists at large. If India can talk with the “terrorists” Taliban on sundry issues, why cannot India talk with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue’? Was terror emanating from Afghanistan any different from terror emanating from Pakistan?
On Wednesday, the Al Qaeda issued a declaration that one of its goals was to secure the “freedom of Kashmir” from India. Doesn’t that amount to terror sponsored by the Taliban because for all purposes there’s isn’t much of a difference between the Taliban and the Al Qaeda? The names of the two are interchangeable and nobody would notice. Besides, the “fighters” of the different terror denominations keep moving from one outfit to another. Again, nobody noticed the shift.
One would have thought that the Modi Government wouldn’t budge from its principled stand that terror and talks don’t go together. But, maybe, Modi feels left out. He is the sort who likes to be in the thick of international events. As long as the United States was in command in Afghanistan, it was okay because being a “USA ally” India and Modi felt at home in Afghanistan. But when the US turned tail and scrammed, and the Taliban took charge, India was out on a limb, lonely like the lamb singled out for slaughter.
Now with the “IMA cadet gone Talibani” available, there’s no need for principled stands. Apparently, a promise has been wrested from the erstwhile gentleman cadet that the Taliban will not play dirty and allow any terror outfit to launch terror attacks on India from Afghan soil. Such trust is often termed “touching”, but can India take the risk? It’s a fact that often betrayal begins with trust. And the last trustworthy people on the planet are the Taliban.
Perhaps, Modi thinks the Taliban know that India has the option to do a Balakote on the Taliban if the IMA gentleman cadet turned Taliban political agent turns truant; that a couple of Rafale fighter jets will airbrush Kabul and that’ll be a potent threat than any in India’s arsenal. The fact of the matter is, India is playing into the hands of a Pakistan-Taliban-China axis. Modi should know that he cannot always play his usual ‘standoff’ game if things turned sour.
In his quest to be always relevant and a visible face in the international arena, Narendra Modi is risking a possible confrontation on Kashmir involving not just Pakistan and China but also a nation chockfull of terrorists.
The BJP/RSS Kashmir expert Ram Madhav says the Modi Government should take advantage of the breakthrough and continue engaging with the Taliban. Well, Ram Madhav is not Ram! And flirting with terrorists is dangerous game. (IPA Service)