Don’t talk about Pakistan at the upcoming UNGA
What if Narendra Modi did not mention Pakistan at all in his upcoming speech at the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) debates? Deliberately.
It will be a big deal, no doubt.
Slamming Pakistan at the UNGA is an annual ritual for Indian leaders, either the prime minister or in his, or her, absence, the foreign minister. It has enjoyed the support of all parties in power, the Bharatiya Janata Party now, and the Congress before it.
Pakistan did not figure in an Indian address at the UNGA only once in the last 10 years, in 2011, and it was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the podium. But do not read too much into it; he had mentioned Pakistan 10 times in his UN speech the year before, in 2010, and five times when he addressed the world body next, in 2013.
The Modi government picked up the baton in 2014, with the PM referencing Pakistan five times in his debut UNGA speech, and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj kept it up with three, six, 15 and 12 mentions over the next four years.
So, skipping it altogether will be a big deal, indeed. It may actually seem unthinkable this year, given how much has happened starting with the Pulwama terrorist attack by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, Balakot airstrike, an aerial dogfight in which an Indian MiG-21 went down after getting the better of a fancier Pakistani F-16, President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate, and the change in the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Giving Pakistan a pass at the UNGA this year would be egregious, especially when Pakistan will be out there raising Kashmir and India at every meeting, as it has done every year and as it will again do this time. It will, in fact, be baiting India to respond. It can also be contended that now is not the time to ease up the pressure when Pakistan could be just days from being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force.
Besides, Pakistan-bashing is good for politics, and gets voters queueing up. And makes great headlines — remember the killer line, Pakistan being called the “Ivy League of terrorism”. So, why not do more of the same? A few thoughts.
Over the same period, since Pulwama, India shot down a satellite — one of its own — becoming only the fourth country in the world with that capability, and, most significantly, tried to land a rover on the Moon’s South Pole chasing evidence of water and possible signs of life, in some form.
K Sivan, the Isro chief, breaking down on live TV was heartbreaking to watch. Even NASA, the premium US space agency, which has handled many such heartbreaks — including the hair-raising message from space, “Houston, we have a problem” — was moved enough to commiserate with the Indians in a tweet “space is hard”.
Which is a better story, even if far less exciting, to tell then? There will be plenty of other more uplifting stories to talk about — how about PV Sindhu’s World Championship cup? Don’t forget, India’s national security agencies — the ministry of external affairs, the military and the intelligence services — have the Pakistan problem under control, or should, if they don’t already.
Can India do without Pakistan, truly de-hyphenated?