A personal view of being an Indian living in United States!
Author Kunal Jain
Valentine’s Day 2019 broke many hearts, especially in the regions of India and wherever Indians live. The Indus or the ‘desi’ community worldwide felt the tremors of a gruesome terrorist attack on a convoy of soldiers in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, killing forty-four men in uniform and critically injuring many more.
As news trickled in, I was amongst the many whose immediate reaction was, “What the F****?” Why doesn’t India attack Pakistan and finish this proxy war once for all? It was almost too painful to watch the gruesome scenes of the attack on news channels and the grieving families during the state funerals that followed. It burnt my heart.
I read the same biased blogs, watched the same nonsense news and heard the politicians’ spiels. The Facebook messages, Twitter posts, and other social media discussions didn’t help me in any way. As the Indian forces flushed out the terrorists responsible for the gruesome 14th February attack, more Indian soldiers were martyred.
I sat pondering for countless hours, thinking about what we could do to fix this forever? Yes, we can go to war; in fact, we are a nation that has not seen full-blown war for nearly half a century. Resources accessible to our soldiers may not match those with the U.S Army, but we can certainly take on Pakistan. The Pakistanis were given a befitting reply by the Indian Army when they infiltrated Kargil (district of Kashmir) in May 1999 but on the cost of 527 martyrs and thousands wounded. Of course, what is holding India back is its history of being a defensive state, the fear of international repercussions, and the nuclear warheads stockpile on both sides of the border.
The over-hyped media coverage will die-down, and the seething anger expressed by millions of citizens across the nation will calm down over the next few days. My biggest concern is that we will forget these martyrs all too soon, worse still, we will go back to the way things are.
I implore you, let’s not allow that to happen under any circumstance.
Let’s Protect Our Forces First!
Those who fight for the country must foremost be protected. A couple of years ago an Indian Army Major made news for using innovative methods for securing the safety of civilians and his men. He tied a stone palter to the front of his jeep and made sure that the convoy got through safely. While political parties criticized the officer but in my view it was an extremely creative way of handling the current situation, he was rewarded by the Indian Army for his quick thinking and bravery. Sadly, it is the politicians who have the final say in when and how our Armed Forces react. The question that arises is who chooses the politicians? Us, we the people.
Defense personnel should have no apprehensions about the support they get from the government and the civilians of the country or the support their family will get if the soldier attains martyrdom. This kind of investment in our soldiers will allay fears and make them defend the nation like an iron wall. Whether it’s the police, paramilitary, or the defense forces, we need to empower these institutions with the required skill set, weapons, equipment, and most importantly the freedom to think and act independently to keep us all safe.
In comparison to other major countries, the defense spending and financial resources available to the Indian armed forces is meager. The U.S defense budget is 3.1% of their GDP, Russia is at 4.3%, and India is 2.4% for now (increased over the past four years). Read this article, please.
A nation’s most important sources of income are the tax payer’s money. Indians worldwide are one of the wealthiest communities. But when it comes to paying taxes in India only 1.7% of the population in India pays taxes according to a 2015-16 survey. Over 50% of citizens in the United States pay taxes. Before you question why the government is not doing more, ask if you have paid your taxes honestly to support the nation. When the Indian government announced demonetization in 2016 most of the people who were not paying taxes came up and lobbied against the state to repeal this big decision because they want to continue enjoying the perks of a defunct public governance system.
Let’s Cure What Ails Us from Within
Think about the significant decisions of the Indian Government in the past four years, like when they parted ways with the Mehbuba Mufti government in J&K State. The intellectual groups in India heavily criticized this decision, but this decision saved the lives of thousands of Indian troops.
As a lifelong student of politics, I feel that there is no space in any constitutional framework for those political or institutional outfits that don’t have faith in that constitution and always talk about separating themselves from that framework. Whether it’s the Hurriyat or any other group, these outfits are dangerous for any secular nation. These groups may not trigger direct violence, but they do influence and preach it. They indirectly provide logistics support to the external agencies or enemies of the country based on their individual financial or political interests. They should strictly be debarred or eliminated to run an agenda against the nation. This has been tolerated for many years in India for various political reasons. Until this is dealt firmly with, the problem cannot be solved. India has more enemies sitting within our borders than outside; therefore blaming Pakistan every second will not help.
Pakistan as a nation was built upon the foundation of hate and racial discrimination and unfortunately, they haven’t come out from that notion yet. India should not expect any favors from them even in dreams. It’s just a matter of our political will to enhance our internal security and first destroy the enemies which are sitting inside the borders and then think about deploying military or diplomatic resources to handle Pakistan.
Blaming or isolating Pakistan on an international level may be just a diplomatic win but it has not worked in the past. Doing so will only increase the animosity amongst the Indian and Pakistani communities across the world, and countries like China will take advantage of it.
The world does not care about the India-Pakistan conflict which has been happening for the last sixty years. China and the United States remotely control the politics in most of the South Asian region, and both these nations have their geopolitical and economic self-interests in how they react to the India-Pakistan issue. Other countries are mere spectators.
What’s the Long-Term Solution?
Again, this is my personal view without supporting any political party, but I am still hopeful that Indian citizens will play by at least the following three rules to empower the country if they are serious about eliminating terrorism in next five years from this country.
- Come forward and start paying their Taxes honestly to the government so that the government can create the defense infrastructure needed to protect the country.
- They must show some sense of discipline so that we can reduce intellectual hate and animosity shared on social media in today’s scenario. This will help us in averting communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims in India.
- Indian citizens must exercise their suffrage. The average election voters turnout in 2014 elections was 66%, and you can see the difference in the past four years when it comes to development. They should not vote for their favorite person, instead vote for someone who puts the nation first. We must elevate our awareness of local politicians and the strategies of political parties. Indian media can play a vital role in educating citizens.
I still think that the safety and security of any state or nation is the responsibility of the citizens of that country, and not just the government’s. Citizens pick the government, pay taxes and the government acts as the custodian of those funds, putting them to good use. This the constitutional framework which in the long-run will protect the country from issues like terrorism.
We must elevate India’s defense budget and fasten the political decision-making process to solve the above issues and protect our nation of 1.35 billion people.
From this day forward let’s make a promise to each other that each life we lose to terrorism and religious fanaticism, should not be forgotten. We must solemnly please to make right what ails us as a society and give our armed forces the respect and support they deserve.