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Since Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s announcement to release Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, some liberals have seemingly gone into an overdrive with their adulation of Imran Khan. Some called him a “statesman”. Pakistan is yet to act against Masood Azhar, chief of terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack.

ThePrint asks: Is liberal Indian’s undiluted praise for Imran Khan sincere or driven by dislike for Modi?

Liberals should not lose sight of the fact that Imran Khan’s govt nurtures terrorists

Tony Joseph

All discussion of the Pulwama attack and the sequence of events that followed it are coloured by the fact that 2019 Lok Sabha elections are near. This applies both to liberals and illiberals, if one were to frame this as a binary – as the question seems to do.

Those liberals who are thanking and praising Imran Khan for releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and for making the right noises are probably trying to turn the two nations away from the path of escalation. Those who are refusing to be taken in by the decision to free the pilot and the reasoned statements of the Pakistani prime minister are mostly of a disposition to continue the escalation.

From the public statements of BJP leader and former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, we know that senior ruling party members think war drums are good for making electoral gains. The liberals, on the other hand, would prefer elections to be fought on bread and butter issues rather than sabre-rattling. Despite this, in my opinion, liberals should not lose sight of the fact that Imran Khan’s government protects and nurtures terrorists and uses terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

Must appreciate Pakistani citizens who created an atmosphere for Imran Khan’s politically risky move

Kavita Krishnan
Secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association

My praise has not been so much for Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan as it has been for the peace-loving citizens of both India and Pakistan, the ordinary people who made the quick return of IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman possible. It is their voices that created an atmosphere in which Imran Khan could take such a politically risky decision. There was all-round applause in Pakistani Parliament when Imran Khan announced his decision. This shows that there were rational voices among the opposition as well.

From common citizens to prominent figures like Fatima Bhutto, there were appeals for peace and decency in Pakistan. This needs to be appreciated, because if it weren’t for them, it would have been extremely difficult for Imran Khan to take such a politically risky call.

Also, the Indian media and the Indian public discourse didn’t make it easy for Imran Khan to take such a decision. They are describing his gesture as a sign of weakness and capitulation.

Imagine a scenario where India had to release a Pakistani soldier. There would have been so much outcry — especially if something of this sort happened under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s rule.

The recent events should serve as a reminder that peace should be seen as a sign of moral strength, not weakness. Of course, Pakistan can do more to curb terrorism. India, too, should realise the situation in Kashmir has only worsened.

Media’s praise for Imran Khan, and temporary abandonment of Baby Taimur, is a considered opinion

Sandip Ghose
Marketing executive and commentator

Imran Khan always had a fan club in India. That was for Imran the cricketer. But this is the Indian Liberal commentariat discovery of Imran 2.0 – the politician. It is touching that it took a Pulwama terror attack and the crash landing of an IAF pilot in Pakistan controlled territory to do that.

Let us not make the mistake of thinking that our media worthies are naive or glamour struck. So, if they have temporarily abandoned Baby Taimur Ali Khan for the adorable Pathan across the border, then it must be a considered opinion.

A quick rewind to the reactions of the same stars when Imran Khan was elected as prime minister may be instructive. The general view was that in Pakistan, prime ministers may come and go but the “deep state” lives on for ever. So, by extension, the deduction can only be this — the ISI and the Pakistan Army carries out terror attacks through its proxies like Jaish-e-Mohammed, while the prime minister manages the PR.

Is that the construct we recommend for India as well? Otherwise, it is difficult to understand how a “war against terror”, challenging Modi on his 56-inch chest claim, is suddenly being judged by the standards of who won the “narrative”.

If Pakistan was bothered about international narrative, it would have been a different country today. Imran Khan and Pakistan had little option but to release Wing Commander Abhinandan – without declaring a de-facto war.

If Modi can hug Nawaz Sharif, then lesser mortals can praise Imran Khan

Chief editor, NewsCentral24x7

Is appreciation for Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan driven by dislike for Narendra Modi and his politics? Or, is the criticism against those appreciating Imran Khan driven by a desire to protect Narendra Modi and his politics?

All Indians had their hearts in their throats while IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was in Pakistan. The decision to send him back may be driven purely out of noble motives or purely out of compulsion created by international pressure, but it would be naive to think that Pakistan did not have other options or that the existence of treaties in itself ensures their implementation.

Forget about Imran Khan, it is a sign of the large heartedness of Indians that so many of us refuse to be petty and act graceful, even with those who are our adversaries. If Prime Minister Modi can go to Pakistan and hug Nawaz Sharif — the man in charge during the Kargil war — if he can invite the ISI, if NSA Ajit Doval’s son can do business with the Pakistanis — then lesser mortals should also be free to act gracefully without motives (especially those of domestic politics) being attributed to their actions.

The question we should ask — were the actions of the past few days driven only for Modi and his politics?

Such posturing of the liberals always brings additional support to BJP-RSS

Shankar Sharan
Professor of Political Science, NCERT

Our liberals are not homogenous. Their habitual kindness towards Pakistan is irrespective of the leader there. They were as praising to General Musharraf, a military usurper (and the architect of the Kargil war), as they are to Imran Khan now.

For most of these liberals, disliking Modi is an extension of their basic aversion to the BJP-RSS. They had the same aversion for Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani too.

Some of the liberals are fixated Leftists, flaunting the old dogma of Muslims/Islam being always right and Hindus/Hindutva as wrong all the time. Some are chums, for whatever reasons, with sundry Pakistanis and their outfits backed by Pakistani establishment. Yet some others are politicians having a stake in various anti-BJP moves here.

Thus, for various reasons, the liberals mouth predictable phrases to defend Pakistani position or try to explain it away when situations are difficult. But all liberals have one thing in common: ignorance. They fail to see that their stances have remained counterproductive all along.

It didn’t help create goodwill either between Muslims and Hindus, or between Pakistan and India. And it certainly didn’t weaken the BJP-RSS combine. If at all, such posturing of the liberals always brought additional, reflex support to it. Many people, otherwise disinterested in party politics, become sympathetic and supportive to the BJP. The present scenario seems to be unfolding the same way.

No contradiction in praising Imran Khan for gesture & condemning Pakistan for terror sponsorship

Namita Bhandare
Journalist and writer

The question is deeply flawed and assumes a false equivalence.

Nowhere have I seen ‘undiluted’ praise for Imran Khan. Yes, Pakistan’s prime minister has wrested a PR advantage in what is the region’s first conflict to be played out on social media.

Yes, liberals see statesmanship in Khan’s ‘peace gesture’ in releasing Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, preceding it with a call to de-escalate the crisis. And yes, many have remarked on the activities of Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues over the past two days who’ve gone about business as usual.

Right-wingers who advocate for a more muscular response by a ‘new India’ say Pakistan had no choice but to return Abhinandan. Untrue. It took eight days to secure the release of Kambampati Nachiketa. Captain Saurabh Kalia was tortured and murdered as a POW by Pakistan.

Asking for Masood Azhar to be tried by the International Criminal Court, Ramachandra Guha called on Modi to ‘call the Chinese president directly to make him see sense’. Ananth Krishnan tweeted, “watch their Foreign Minister waffle and weasel out of reply on arresting Masood Azhar”.

There is no contradiction in praising Imran Khan for a single gesture and condemning his state for its continued sponsorship of terrorism. This is the evidence that we have seen.

Liberals fail to see Modi govt’s actions forced Imran Khan to release Abhinandan

Raghav Awasthi
Lawyer & RSS member

Indian liberals, for the lack of a better word, are disgusting, to say the least.

After the Pulwama terror attack, they tried to mock PM Narendra Modi and said that his policy was a failure because he did not prevent the deaths of the CRPF soldiers. After the IAF strike on Balakot, the liberals said that Modi was trying to win votes on the corpses of the soldiers.

The capture of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman gave them more ammunition to use against the Prime Minister. Now that our pilot is being released by Pakistan, they feel Imran Khan is some kind of a statesman.

It is unfortunate that their hatred for Modi has rendered them unable to see that it is precisely because India held all the military and diplomatic aces that Imran Khan was forced to release Abhinandan in less than 72 hours. They fail to see that despite Pakistani pressure, Sushma Swaraj would still be speaking at the OIC. They also fail to see that the action taken by the Modi government will become the template for future responses to terrorist attacks, thus making it difficult for Pakistan to continue its low-cost proxy war against India.

They also fail to see that even today, their poster-boy Imran Khan’s government has stoutly refused to entertain the possibility of putting an infamous terrorist like Masood Azhar on trial. The liberals’ hatred for Modi and the growing irrelevance of their views in ‘New India’ has unhinged them completely. One can only pray for them to be cured of this willful blindness.

People who believe in “Imran Khan is a man of peace” theory have a confirmation bias

Anirban Paul
Business executive and political commentator

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s gesture of returning Wing Commander Varthaman is not unprecedented. During Kargil War, Group Captain (then Flight Lieutenant) Kambampati Nachiketa was also taken as a prisoner of war (PoW). He was returned after eight days.

Now, if PM Imran Khan was really a man of peace, he would have returned Kulbhushan Jadhav, he would have handed over LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, JeM chief Masood Azhar, and, of course, Dawood Ibrahim.

All these facts are known to many Indians — liberal or pacifist or Gandhian or anything else. Yet they think of PM Khan as a man of peace and credit him for a diplomatic victory.

Why is it that a group of people are blind to stark facts, but believe a bizarre “Imran is a man of peace” narrative? There can be three reasons – vested interests; pre-existing biases; or irrational affection for Imran Khan and/or irrational hatred for his Indian counterparts.

Since “Peace with Pakistan” brigade has a large number of people, a Bell curve would come in. I think there are probably a few people in the first and last categories, while a majority of them would be in the second — that they have a pre-existing bias. Due to decades of exposure to well-meaning but fact-free nostra (“People in Pakistan want peace”, “War solves no problems”), many people have confirmation bias, and believe in narratives that are not well supported by facts.

By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint.

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  1. Whether the liberals comments are genuine or not the latest situation has been kind of like a self goal by India. Perception is a big part of modern warfare and should have been managed from the airstrikes to the capture to the return. In the end India comes out of looking somewhat weak whereas it had the opportunity to look menacing and someone not to be messed with.

  2. I am amused by Raghav Awasthi’s comment. He finds liberals disgusting. He is a lawyer; he must be finding all judges disgusting, because all judges are impartial! One cannot be a liberal in true sense of the word unless one is impartial.

    By his assertion, Mr Modi wrote rules of Geneva Convention. Musharraf also released Group Captain Nichiketa well before the war ended, in a week’s time. The Kargil war ended one month after the release.

    Biggest harm of Narendra Modi’s coming to power is that a huge swarm of narrow minded people, with sick thinking, with hate and violence in mind, have assumed centre stage importance. One would hope for a better and more balanced narrative from educated people like Advocate Raghav Awasthi.

  3. I do not think that this could get any funnier. To paint a man who comes to power based on criticism of Nawaz Sharif’s peace overtures towards Modi (and electoral rigging to the boot) as some messiah for peace is intellectual dishonesty of the highest order. I can understand Sarmila Boses of the world playing to their master’s tune, but for Print to stoop so intellectually low is pathetic (wasn’t one joker on your team in Snehesh Alex enough?). If the staff of a liberal publication cannot understand the nexus between right wing across the world and how they complement each other, then I see no future for liberals in these shitholes named Pakistan and India. Pakistan’s right wing needs Modi more than anyone else and they would go to any extent to ensure his electoral victory. This would not only provide ample justification for the log dead two-nation theory but also divert already scarce resources to the army (and rob idealists like us of any opportunity to question anything). The PTI’s dismal performance on almost every front since being handed over the power also could not have been covered up more appropriately despite the blanket ban on media since almost past one year. I would rather be doing stories on why Pakistan was not so forthcoming for peace when a Muslim eating person was not India’s prime minister. Why has Hafiz Sayeed not been handed over to India when Tariq Khosa, the former FIA DG, has explicitly written in his Dawn columns that all the allegations levelled by India against Hafiz Sayeed were independently verified by his agency. Also, such rubbish strengthens extremist elements in India more than anything else. Ramachandra Guhas of the world have already been discredited thanks to such unperceptive journalism (if one could even call it as such) and you do not have the luxury of another Rajani Kothari for intellectual guidance.

  4. Yes, the liberals do have hatred for Modi that’s why they go to any extent to defame him, be it surgical strikes, Rafale deal, or air strikes. What is troubling that these liberals are supposed to stand up for truth but they end up twisting facts, sometimes creating fake news and worst of all giving enemy countries to something to cheer about.

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