Speaking at a function in New Delhi, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Joint General Secretary Krishna Gopal said last week that India was in a position to send wheat to Pakistan to help it tide over the food crisis gripping that country.
Facing an acute shortage of essential commodities, food inflation touched a record high of 42.94% in January 1,2023, causing unspeakable distress among the people across the country. As the American author and political activist Hellen Keeler (1880-1968) once said ‘happiness rarely keeps company with an empty stomach’.
The distress caused by the soaring prices, gruesome acts of violence, financial crisis, and social and political unrest across this country, is spilling over on to the streets in Pakistan. Unsurprisingly, Gopal’s statement has generated a lot of curiosity; young YouTubers are asking the common citizens what they thought of his statement.
While the responses are a mix of yes and no, an overwhelming majority of the respondents seem to favour India’s help in overcoming the present crisis of catastrophic proportions. This is not the time to let ‘ana’, or ego, come in the way of the hapless citizens’ ‘falah-o-bahbood’, or welfare, is a common refrain.
There is considerable admiration for India’s outreach to Turkey in the wake of a calamitous earthquake earlier this month, and to Sri Lanka late last year to help the island state tide over its financial crisis.
The significance of India being among the first ones to reach the quake-hit areas despite the Turkish President’s unwavering support to Pakistan on the Kashmir issue is not lost on the people appearing in several YouTube clips that are doing the rounds on the internet.
There is no question that India can easily provide wheat and other essential food items, including vegetables, to Pakistan in substantial quantities,but considering the present state of affairs between the two neighbours, it’s not as simple as it should have been in normal circumstances.
India cannot run the risk of offering to help, only to be snubbed by the hardliners in the Pakistani establishment, and a sizeable section of the country’s mainstream media gladiators, who will rather face the wrath of the people than to accept anything from its ‘azli dushman’, or arch enemy, India.
Even if Shahbaz Sharif’s beleaguered government manages to blunt this narrative and the political cost of accepting India’s help, he cannot subdue, much less rein in, the putative ‘non-state actors’, including the rogue element in the establishment, who have always played a dubious role in derailing all peace overtures by perpetrating egregious acts of violence.
In the circumstances, the initiative must come from the Pakistani establishment, both civilian and military, with reasonable assurance against any act of terrorism being perpetrated in India.
There is a good chance that it may work this time around for, given the current state of despair, the common man in Pakistan isn’t going to take kindly to any attempt to spoil their chances of surviving the enduring crisis which is literally a matter of life and death for them.
For its part, it will be naïve for India to expect anything in return for doing what would be the right thing to do, at least morally. It will be good to remember what Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘To a man with an empty stomach food is God’. Everything else, one may add, is secondary.