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Ignore this jihad - The Indian Express

Editorial ()
May 30, 1998

Title: Ignore this jihad
Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: May 30, 1998

Nawaz Sharif's appeal to his country after its nuclear tests was
high-pitched enough to sound as if a war were on, with all the
trappings of austerity and an emergency. The international
concomitant of this highly theatrical effort will no doubt be an
appeal to Islam. Islamabad can be relied upon to try to win over
the Islamic world to its bomb as an answer to India's 'Hindu'
bomb, and exploit India's newly "aggressive" Hinduism to win the
sympathy of the rest of the world. Its prior warning about its
tests to Saudi Arabia and Iran is sufficient indication. Not only
is Islam Pakistan's traditional card against India, it is its
only one. On what other conceivable grounds could it begin to
counterpoise itself to India and expect to be taken seriously?
That ploy could gain greater credibility in the world's', and
particularly the Islamic world's, eyes now that India has come to
be governed by a indu nationalist party which has given early
and aggressive expression to its nationalism.

India need not be disturbed by this - it has taken Pakistan's
single-issue international activism in its stride in the past and
scored significant diplomatic victories against it. But surely as
much as anything else . the BJP's grand vision of India entails
declining to be regarded in binary terms with Pakistan? The irony
is that such a treatment has little basis in fact. The only
reason Pakistan continues to he seen in comparable terms with
India is because India's own Pakistan fixation has let it go on
quibbling with a country which is no match for it in arty of the
ways that count: economic strength, military might, democratic
credentials, international vision and standing. It can put the
current world focus on it to better use than dignifying
Pakistan's propaganda by challenging it in its own terms.

India's world agenda, unlike Pakistan's anti-India agenda couched
in Islamese, is a mainstream one and it has to be seen to be so.
Its nuclear tests were certainly inspired in part by the security
threats to it, the one from Pakistan included. But they were
inspired also by its vision of a role for itself in world affairs
in which Pakistan and indeed any other single country has no
part. It is a vision of a powerful state, militarily strong, yes,
but economically and technologically advanced as well. Such a
country, when it speaks its mind, is heard attentively and uses
its influence to help fashion and maintain a world order of its
vision. India has been careful so far to do nothing to justify
the label of the 'Hindu' bomb, except that it cannot help the.
fact that it was tested by a BJP-led government. But that does
not guarantee that the label will not stick. It is an attractive
soundbite, and sounds fine in opposition to the 'Islamic' bomb, a
term its owner would like to peddle. The only way that India can
fight an incorrect and disadvantageous description of its own
bomb is to act big. Its energies should now be focused on
asserting responsibility and restraint after proving its
capability, and regaining a respect which has lately suffered a
setback. The world is India's stage after the blasts have made it
sit up and listen. What a pity it would be if India chose to
thrust smallness upon itself.


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