In India, politicians are forced to mould policies that reflect popular will
The majority may not always be right, but in India, politicians are compelled to act according to the whims and fancies of public opinion. That’s quite a roundabout way to describe democracy, but it answers some of the questions raised by Ayaz Amir. He contends that Pakistan is somehow more mature because all the government’s holy-cows (religious sensitivities unfortunately offended) of the government are slaughtered by its newspaper columnists. Ignoring home truths and taking Amir at face value, is’nt it reasonable to suppose that Indian commentators dont find the need to criticise foreign policy because it is evolved based on a national consensus that reflects popular will? Even outliers and lofty-softies like Kuldip Nayar may differ on the means, but not over ends. (There is of course that self-promoting Rebel of All Things who scores self-goals to stay in the news).
Pakistan has come a long way on its march to maturity, the absurdities and self-inflicted injuries of military rule notwithstanding. As opposed to the straitjacketed conformism of earlier years, discourse in Pakistan is quite unfettered, often touching areas that would have been dangerous to enter or cross not long ago. In this new situation no holy cows remain, not even the army or the ISI, and no sacrosanct subjects, not even the country’s Kashmir policy.
By contrast, discussion in India about fundamental issues of foreign policy is relatively hidebound and restricted, seldom arriving at positions not sanctioned by the establishment.
It is not rare these days to come across Pakistani writers who say ‘forget Kashmir’. There are others of course whose views are radically different. But at least some kind of a debate is on. Is something similar visible in India? How many Indian writers are there who would be talking of human rights violations in Kashmir? Or who would question the wisdom of India’s Kashmir policy? After all, a policy resulting in so much killing and destruction can’t be all right? But how many voices in India which go beyond the mantra of “cross-border terrorism”? The element of self-criticism in Pakistan is much greater and more noticeable than in India.[Dawn]
Besides, to suggest that the Indian government’s policies are not challenged or criticised in the media does not imply that they are not challenged at all — in fact, they are challenged everywhere; in parliament, in courts, on the streets, in drawing rooms and yes, in the media too. Ayaz Amir perhaps has not heard of The Hindu (or its related fortnightly Frontline), which like the United States’ Christian Science Monitor, is quite misleadingly named. Without needing to indulge in Maoist ‘self-criticism’, these publications do an excellent job of presenting alternative points of view.
And if many voices in India are not going beyond ‘the mantra of cross-border terrorism’ it is because they do not have the luxury of doing so — being at the receiving end.