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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 14 New Delhi March 23, 2019

Rethinking India - Pakistan Relations

Saturday 23 March 2019, by Arup Kumar Sen

The heretical political thinker of our time, Michel Foucault, explored the correlation of modern politics and war in his writings. The editors of a recent book on Foucault argued that in re-making politics, the modern age also re-made war. In interpreting Foucault’s writings on war, they observed: “The implication is that war is not simply an attribute of the state but related to historical processes of modern identity formation and the modern constitution of political subjectivity as well.” (Michael Dillon and Andrew W. Neal, ed., Foucault on Politics, Security and War, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, p. 9)

The recent killing of more than 40 CRPF personnel in terror attack in the Pulwama district of Kashmir on February 14, 2019, created tensions in the India-Pakistan borders. In an ‘appeal for reason’, several academicians, activists, journalists, retired bureaucrats, diplomats, judges, veterans and citizens expressed concern in a petition over escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. To put it in the words of the petition: “Even a limited confrontation would resolve nothing—neither the tensions between India and Pakistan, nor the Kashmir dispute. On the contrary, it would aggravate tensions and delay the process of conflict resolution. The principal victims of this conflict are the civilian residents of Kashmir, who have endured immense suffering over the years, including gross human rights violations. In recent days, Kashmiris have also been a target of brutal attacks across the country.” (See The Wire, March 1, 2019)

But, the state discourse in India immediately after the Pulwama tragedy talked in a different language. While addressing a programme in the Capital to fag off the Vande Bharat Express on February 15, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said in this connection: “The amount of anger that is there in the country, people’s blood is boiling. I can very well understand this.” He also warned the “terror outfits and their masters”, and announced that the government had given “full freedom to the security forces” to act.

After the escalation of India-Pakistan conflict, and with the capture of an Indian Air Force Wing Commander, Abhinandan Varthaman, by Pakistan and his later release, some apparent de-escalation has taken place. But, the future of India-Pakistan relations is still uncertain. According to a report carried in The Economic Times (March 4, 2019): “The situation along the India-Pakistan border is de-escalating, but distrust of Pakistan still emanates from the armed forces in light of ongoing tensions between the two countries and the over 100 ceasefire violations since the Pulwama terrorist attack.”

The dominant media is playing a big role in nurturing and propagating anti-Pakistan feelings in our country. This testifies that “war is not simply an attribute of the state but related to ...the modern constitution of political subjectivity as well”.

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