Hyderabad: 16 April 2019: Economic growth had been slowing, thousands of farmers were marching on the capital (some even dumped gallons of nearly worthless milk in the streets), and unemployment had hit its worst level in 45 years — an unpleasant fact that Mr. Modi’s government tried to hide.
From the outside, Mr. Modi was widely criticized as being willing to risk war for even the chance at a political boost. And when an Indian pilot was captured in Pakistani territory — and was then quickly returned in a good-optics moment for Pakistan — some international analysts thought Mr. Modi’s military adventurism had backfired.India has a parliamentary system, and for Mr. Modi to return to power, his Bharatiya Janata Party must win a majority of the 543 elected seats in the lower house of Parliament or form a coalition with regional parties. The same goes for the Indian National Congress party, which ruled India for about 50 of the country’s 71 years of independence.
Congress’s leader, Rahul Gandhi, is determined to swing the election discussion back to domestic issues.
Mr. Modi’s biggest vulnerability is the economy. Even though the country’s economy grew 6.6 percent in the most recent quarter, still faster than most developed countries, it was India’s slowest rate in five years.With a population of 1.3 billion and improving education, India produces nearly half a million new job seekers each month. This would be an overwhelming burden for any leader, and Mr. Modi raised expectations even higher by promising to create 10 million jobs, a wildly ambitious goal that, by most accounts, he has failed to achieve.Another problem for Mr. Modi is dissatisfaction among Dalits. India’s centuries-old caste hierarchy — with Dalits at the bottom, Brahmins at the top and many groups layered in between — still dominates life in many areas, especially rural ones.
Lower castes still face horrendous abuse, and Dalits — who represent close to 100 million votes — have long distrusted Mr. Modi and his party, which is rooted in a Hindu nationalist worldview that favors upper castes and emphasizes India’s Hinduness.
But in the last election, in 2014, Mr. Modi played up his humble origins — the son of a tea seller from a relatively low caste. Analysts said that 24 percent of Dalits voted for his party, double the percentage from the previous election
This time around might still be very different, even with a bump from the showdown with Pakistan.
Pakistani attitudes towards India have gone through multiple war, peace and then war again sequences during these years. This could be because Pakistanis have received an overtly aggressive education vis-à-vis India in recent times — one that emphasises their difference from the people on the Indian side of the border. They have been made to see the political and geographical divide between India and Pakistan as a war between good and evil, as a battle between an Atal-Bihari-Vajpayee-neighbourhood bully and its smaller, but virtuous, nemesis, and as a conflict between two religions.
Same has been the case on the Indian side — only more so because media there has come to believe that there is money to be made from selling war. The hostility towards everything Pakistani has often manifested itself in rabidly anti-Pakistan rhetoric coming out of India’s chatterati — including politicians, actors, former bureaucrats, ex-soldiers and sometimes even intellectuals and writers.
In its most recent manifestation, this schooling in hate has led to multiple lynchings of Kashmiris working and studying in different parts of India. They are increasingly seen as Pakistani agents out to destroy India.
That the two sides need to change this context and their mutually hostile mindsets to one that induces peace more than it breeds war, is something that cannot be over-emphasised. There is so much to lose from war — money, men, our essential humanity. And there is so much to gain from peace — human development, security, our long-lost kindness and care.
China – “Pakistan’s all-weather friend” – has no such qualms. It does not mind where its arms are used or against whom. In its armaments supply policy, China follows the dictum of its former president Deng Xiaoping: it does not matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice.
China, however, could not have been unconcerned when its JF-17 aircraft (manufactured by Pakistan with Chinese assistance) engaged in actual combat against India’s Russian-designed MiG-21s and Su-30s. It needed to know if the aircraft was any good. The JF-17 passed the test and vindicated Pakistan’s decision to rely upon China rather than the United States, which asks for its money in advance and then delays delivery.