When Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated Diwali with the Indian Army soldiers in Siachen, it captured the nation’s imagination. On the back of resounding election victories and a successful US visit this was a political “masterstroke” which was bound to bolster his political star.
At 5 AM on 24th October, there was a desperate knock on the bed room door of Nawaz Sharif. It was the Pakistan Army Chief, Raheel Sharif. He informed a bemused Nawaz that Modi was on his way to Siachen and that Pakistan HAD to respond at all costs. And that too soon.
Still wearing his pink coloured polka dotted night suit, Nawaz Sharif was bundled into a chopper heading to the Pakistan side of the Saltoro Ridge which houses the Siachen Glacier.As Modi was reportedly wearing two jackets in the icy heights, the Pakistan Army thought their PM would look “macho” without wearing even one !!!
Without a jacket, Nawaz Sharif developed delirium and started praising Modi for his adroit sense of politics and shouted that “Pakistan mein bhi Modi Sarkar” !!!! Fearing embarrassment, the Pakistan Army chopper was ordered to abort mission!
Modi’s surprise visit to the “world’s highest battlefield” had claimed its first unintended victim.
The Indian PM was to initially mark Diwali in flood hit Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). Intending to send across a message he also added Siachen to his itenary. This was to be the first visit in a decade by an Indian PM to Siachen Glacier (which in Balti means ” Land with an abundance of roses”; an irony indeed )During the visit to the glacier he flew over the Indian Army positions,visited the Base Camp,addressed the troops as well as interacted with them over a cup of tea.
Modi expressed solidarity with the soldiers and conveyed to them the Nation’s gratitude for the sacrifices of the Indian Army. He also commended the Army’s rescue effort during the recent floods in Kashmir and assured that prickly and emotive issues such as modernization, One Rank One Pension and a National War Memorial will be addressed satisfactorily.
The sub text of the visit was also unmistakable as the PM was visiting a difficult battle zone in the backdrop of his decisive and firm response to Pakistan’s trans LC firing. And with a strategic connivance of China and Pakistan converging in Kashmir, his visit held massive significance.
By now the opposition had woken up to the news of the latest Modi manouevre. Dear ol’ “Pappu” was confused as to why was Modi visiting Siachen on Halloween and claiming it was Diwali ??? Halloween???Someone quickly went an placed an earthen pot on his head lest he called a press conference to “expose” facts which would decimate his Indian National Congress (INC) to the extent that all its members would only be acting in Ram Leela for the next few decades or so. Pappu of course would struggle to get the role of even a tree in the “Ashok Vatika”!
Modi was also visiting Srinagar and this gave the opposition a whiff of a chance to get back into the “game”.Spokespersons and leaders such as Rashid Alvi (Congress),Anwar Ali (JDU), Tariq Anwar insinuated that Modi’s real intent in going to Srinagar was to further his Party’s prospects in the upcoming elections in J&K. Irrespective of the truth, not one demonstrated neither compassion for the flood victims nor solidarity with the soldiers. All that mattered was “the Party line”. For this unbridled buffoonery all of them have qualified for an all-expenses paid 9 nights and 10 days on Bana Top, a post at 22000 ft! Of course without jackets !
The Amul Ad/ topical on Narendra Modi’s Siachen visit is based on a photo of the PM during his visit, wherein he is depicted as seated and patting a dog with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Dalbir Singh Suhag and another officer are present in the background.A smiling Amul Girl is shown as the dog handler. The detailing is good as the characters are identifiable by their attire during the actual event.
The Tag Line…Siachen Jahan Se Achcha…is a take on the popular patriotic Urdu poem “Saare Jahan se achcha Hindustan Hamara” by Muhammad Iqbal (also known as Allama Iqbal) and conveys Modi’s intent in celebrating Diwali in Siachen rather than any other place in the world. Ironically the creators have chosen a tag line to depict Siachen – a battle zone between India and Pakistan – from the works of a poet who was later the ideologue behind the idea of Pakistan. (Iqbal composed this poem as the Taranah -e- Hind in 1904 and his transformation from a secular poet to an ideologue of a future Muslim society was complete when in 1910 he composed the Taranah -e-Milli ,an ode to the greatness of Islam).
The Punch Line…Top of the world…signifies the giddy heights at Siachen and relates it to the status of Amul Butter as being on top of its trade!
There’s been much speculation about whether the dog with Modi depicted was a adopted stray or a trained canine serving alongside the troops? It reminds me of Sadat Hasan Manto’s short story “The Dog of Tithwal” wherein the Indian and Pakistani troops name the same stray dog as “Jhun Jhun” and “Shun Shun” respectively. And to underscore the situation of the time the dog is expected to choose nationalities.It later loses its life when he is shot at by both sides.
To lift the veil, the dog in the strip is named Deva and it’s a Great Swiss Mountain Dog serving as a combatant with an Indian Army Dog Unit and is trained for Avalanche Rescue Operations.
Its important for us all to realize that Siachen is one of the key national efforts and the PM’s visit has gone a long way in endorsing the fact. Some columnist have also observed that Modi has re-established the “institutional relevance of the military” in nation building. His visit endorses the Government’s commitment towards defence related issues, be they operational or administrative in nature.
Modi’s visit was like a well-made Diwali rocket which had the intended effect its fired for – loud and spectacular. Its just that some in the opposition felt its hot end finding its mark on them !!!
After having walked to the Base Camp the onus is on Modi to walk the talk.He will need to back his words with deeds and resist the temptation to use the military as an expedient for his political agenda.Genuine or rhetorical – the true import of his actions will emerge as time goes by. Mr Modi, history and the thousands of families who have given martyrs to this country are watching you intently.Fail at your peril !
Meanwhile, taking a leaf out of Modi’s book, Mulayam Singh Yadav has decided to express solidarity with “his” troops over Christmas.He is visiting the buffaloes in his native Saifai !!!