Blame Game: Undeniably, the Mumbai strikes understood by India to have been carried out by militants supported by Pakistan-based organisations led to tension between the two countries. Yet, rather than talk of going to war, taking revenge and/or indulge in any warlike conflict, the tension was expressed diplomatically, through media and other channels. In fact, this trend used frequently by both sides for terrorist strikes in their territories has begun to be labelled as “blame game.” Politically, by blaming the other side for what has happened in either India or Pakistan may be viewed as an easy way by the respective leaders of evading their own lapses—security as well as intelligence services—which failed to check the terrorist strikes.
Little importance has been given in the media to the Mumbai strikes having contributed to enhancing security checks at five-star hotels. Even the ordinary hotels across the country have started paying greater attention to scrutinising the identity of visitors checking in.
Interestingly, the two countries appear to have become fairly accustomed to indulging in this exercise. In this context, what bears greater importance is the change in people’s attitude. Notwithstanding all the hype raised over the role of Pakistan-supported elements in Mumbai strikes, the common people did not talk of going to war with Pakistan. Should this be assumed as a sign of a change in people’s attitude towards Pakistan and/or in going to war- perhaps to a degree, yes?
Changes in Attitude at Several Levels
In today’s age, Indians have accepted that going to war is not the ideal solution to all problems. With respect to the Mumbai strikes, their attention remained focused on what was happening in the country’s financial capital and how the government was tackling the situation. Little importance has been given in the media to the Mumbai strikes having contributed to enhancing security checks at five-star hotels. Even the ordinary hotels across the country have started paying greater attention to scrutinising the identity of visitors checking in. In other words, irrespective of the noise made over Pakistan-based groups’ role in Mumbai strikes, hotels started paying greater attention than before to increase security checks at their entry points. Mumbai strikes cautioned them to become more vigilant about security at their hotels. It is a subtle but well-conveyed message that the other hotels don’t wish to fall victim to any terrorist strike because of some security lapse in their own quarters.
There is no denying that increasing people-to-people interaction and cultural exchanges between the two countries have made Indians and Pakistanis fairly disinclined to the idea of engaging in war with each other. Besides, the small screen has made the common people fairly aware of what a war can really lead to. Equally pertinent is the fact that the post-partition generation does not appear to be as aggressive against the other country as is/was the one that witnessed partition. Perhaps, had the Indian/Pakistani cricketers of yesteryears—like Erapalli Prasanna, Sunil Gavaskar, B. S. Bedi, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad or Wasim Akram—ever even thought of playing for the neighbouring country, they would probably have been exiled from their own land. Commercialisation of the same game, leading to Pakistani cricketers playing for Indian teams, has earned considerable positive coverage and barely any criticism. Of course, tennis has strengthened Indo-Pak relations at the games level even further. A recent example of this is the teaming of Rohan Bopanna (Indian) with Aisam-ul-Haq Qureishi (Pakistani) in the U.S. Open finals in New York. Called the “Indo-Pak Express,” they played wearing T-shirts with the message “Stop War, Start Tennis.”
Domestic politics in both India and Pakistan cannot be delinked from their diplomatic relations. India has been headed by coalition governments for more than a decade”¦Political instability still prevails in Pakistan. Besides, regional developments have minimised the options of Pakistan considering a war with India.
Though Bopanna and Qureishi lost the finals to the United States team, the top-seeded Byran twins, Bob and Mike, in straight sets via tie breaks, 6-7, 6-7, the message conveyed by their game cannot be sidelined where Indo-Pak ties are concerned. The Indo-Pak team received substantial support from the “home” crowd, with Indians and Pakistanis turning up in good numbers to cheer them at the Arthur Ashe stadium in New York. The permanent representatives of India and Pakistan to the United Nations were for a change sitting on the same side to display their support for the team. They were Hardeep Puri (India) and Abdullah Haroon (Pakistan). After the match, Haroon told reporters: “I say let’s make the dream of these boys a reality, let them play tennis on the Wagah border with both countries watching.” Puri said: “All right, there have been differences, there have been problems (in Indo-Pak relations). I think the overall effort is to isolate those problems and live in peace and harmony. We were delighted to have Rohan and Aisam performing so well, and that helps.”
Domestic politics in both India and Pakistan cannot be delinked from their diplomatic relations. India has been headed by coalition governments for more than a decade. The last two decades have witnessed the rise of numerous state-based parties, which have contributed significantly to Congress losing the grip it earlier had when it headed single-party governments. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is heading the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for the second term. Before him, the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (Bharatiya Janata Party) led the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Even if the Indian coalition were to decide on a war with Pakistan, opinions of all party leaders forming the alliance need to be given importance. War, in this coalition-period, is now also viewed from the angle of political risks it carries for the parties in power. A decline in the political base of Congress, primarily because of the rise of numerous parties and the emergence of the BJP as an important national party, has considerably lessened the prospects of it taking the risk of going to war. Were it still the single largest party with substantial support to head the government, the risk of fearing criticism from rival parties for taking to war would have been minimal. But the case is no more the same. The coalition phase has also enhanced the possibility of a war spelling a stronger political threat at home than it did earlier.
Political instability still prevails in Pakistan. Besides, regional developments have minimised the options of Pakistan considering a war with India. The Afghanistan crisis has Pakistani troops fairly engaged. This has also reduced prospects of their being deployed for a war with India. In addition, the Afghanistan crisis has increased the geostrategic importance of Pakistan for the United States. India is keen on strengthening its ties with the United States. In the circumstances, even if India and Pakistan reach a warlike or near-war stage, the United States may be expected to exercise all possible pressure to restrain the countries from being engaged in a full-fledged war.