Ex­ter­nal In­vi­ta­tion, In­ter­nal Sig­nalling

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

Modi’s in­vi­ta­tion to neigh­bours is whole­some Naren­dra Modi’s in­vi­ta­tion to South Asian coun­tries to send their heads of govern­ment or their rep­re­sen­ta­tives to be present at his swear­ing-in is much more than a ges­ture of good neigh­bourli­ness. Of course, to love thy neigh­bour is a virtue in it­self and is en­tirely wel­come. But given the na­ture of the neigh­bours and given the con­text in which the in­vi­ta­tion is be­ing ex­tended, this show of friend­ship goes a lit­tle fur­ther. The most sig­nif­i­cant in­vi­ta­tion is, of course, to Pak­istan. That to Bangladesh comes next in im­port and im­por­tance. It is only BJP ally from Tamil Nadu Vaiko who makes the in­vi­ta­tion to Sri Lanka any­thing more than rou­tine, be­cause of his protest against ‘war crim­i­nal’ Ra­japaksa be­ing hon­oured.

Pak­istan has served, in Naren­dra Modi’s ag­gres­sive cam­paign rhetoric in the past, as short­hand for dis­trust of and hos­til­ity to­wards the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity of In­dia. By at­tack­ing the UPA govern­ment for be­ing soft on Pak­istan, Modi im­puted that the Congress was ap­peas­ing mi­nori­ties. Pak­istan, in this school of thought, is not just the bar­bar­ian for­ever snip­ing at the gate but also the en­emy within. Af­ter hav­ing won the elec­tion, Modi is now sig­nalling a change of tack. By invit­ing the leader of Pak­istan to his swear­ing-in, Modi sig­nals ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties within and will­ing­ness to co­op­er­ate with Is­lam­abad. Both are un­equiv­o­cally wel­come. Bash­ing Bangladeshi mi­grants dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, Modi had raised hack­les in Dhaka. Now, by reach­ing out to Dhaka, he sig­nals peace. This, too, is wel­come.

This sin­gle act of po­lit­i­cal as­tute­ness will not ban­ish the ap­pre­hen­sions that In­dia’s mi­nori­ties have about the coun­try’s new prime min­is­ter. But it cer­tainly works to take the edge off their wari­ness. Kash­mir is one place where Modi’s ges­ture has gone down par­tic­u­larly well. War, said Clause­witz, is con­tin­u­a­tion of pol­i­tics by other means. It would ap­pear the ob­verse is true, too: peace and friend­ship, too, are other means to con­tinue pol­i­tics. On the face of it, this pol­i­tics is of the con­struc­tive kind as well. Be­sides be­ing clever.

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