New Delhi: India has spent two weeks contemplating deadly terrorism, intelligence failures, airstrikes across the Line of Control in both directions, and the possibility of war with its nuclear-armed neighbour.
As TV presenters turned into government proxies – ‘leaking’ hyperbolic claims about the Balakot strikes, and prosecuting the Pakistani response – the prime minister and his cabinet have been remarkably muted, especially when the going was tough.
Where has Narendra Modi been in the last two weeks? The Wire breaks it down, day by day.
National security scenario: In Lethpora, Pulwama, a suicide attack by a car-bomber killed 40 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force at around 3.15 pm.
PM’s schedule: Modi was in Uttarakhand when the attack took place, for a documentary shoot at Corbett National Park. There are different versions on when he left the shoot, but local newspapers have suggested he only exited the park at 6.40 pm – more than three hours after the bombing.
National security scenario: On Friday, home minister Rajnath Singh and a National Investigative Agency team visited Pulwama.
A ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesperson accused Pakistan of supporting terrorism and Jaish-e-Mohammad. India also revoked Pakistan’s status as a Most-Favoured Nation.
PM’s schedule: Modi gave his first statement after the attack from Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, where he said that the martyrdom of the CRPF men would not go to waste.
In Jhansi, he also laid the foundation stones for multiple projects, and made time to address a BJP rally.
Modi also flagged off the Vande Bharat Express, or Train 18.
In the evening, the prime minister paid tribute to the soldiers killed in the Pulwama attack in New Delhi.
National security scenario: At an all-party meeting in New Delhi, political parties unanimously passed a resolution to stand with the security forces. The Indian Air Force (IAF) chief said India is prepared to deliver an “appropriate response”.
India began to receive high-level support from the global community as US National Security Advisor John Bolton endorsed India’s right to self-defence after the attack.
India raised customs duty on all Pakistani goods to 200%.
PM’s schedule: Modi was on the campaign trail in Maharashtra, skipping the all-party meeting held in solidarity with the troops.
In Dhule, he inaugurated an irrigation project, the newly electrified Jalgaon-Udhana rail project and a train. He laid foundation stones for two new railway lines. In Yavatmal, he addressed women in self-help groups.
It was good interacting with my sisters and brothers of Maharashtra during programmes at Yavatmal and Dhule.
Here are some glimpses. pic.twitter.com/vkrtfw4WJA
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 16, 2019
National security scenario: On Sunday, the J&K government withdrew the security cover of five separatist leaders. Violence against Kashmiri students continued and four students were charged with sedition in Jaipur.
Bollywood’s Federation Of Western India Cine Employees called for a ban on all actors and artists from Pakistan.
PM’s schedule: The prime minister visited Jharkhand and Bihar. In Ranchi, he interacted with beneficiaries of the Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme.
He also unveiled several development projects in Hazaribagh, and laid foundation stones for others in Barauni.
Will be in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand today to inaugurate:
Three medical college buildings.
Four rural water supply schemes.
Sahibganj Sewerage Treatment Plant
Foundation stone for many projects will also be laid.
Know more. https://t.co/JJvMoit753
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 17, 2019
National security scenario: In an extended armed encounter, an alleged mastermind of the Pulwama attack, Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, was killed along with five soldiers, including an army major.
PM’s schedule: Modi spent the day with the president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri. The two signed several agreements.
The prime minister also presented the Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony.
He tweeted to celebratory message about the Shiv Sena-BJP electoral alliance in Maharashtra.
Our association with the @ShivSena goes beyond politics. We are bound by a desire to see a strong and developed India.
The decision to contest together strengthens the NDA significantly. I am sure our alliance is going to be Maharashtra’s first and only choice!
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 18, 2019
National security scenario: The Indian army claimed that Jaish leadership had been eliminated in Kashmir “in less than a hundred hours”.
Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan made his first statement, saying that Pakistan would not think twice before retaliating to military action by India.
PM’s schedule: In Varanasi, Modi unveiled various development projects and inaugurated the cancer hospital at Benaras Hindu University.
Back in New Delhi, he broke protocol to receive the Saudi crown prince – just arrived from Pakistan – on the airport tarmac with a warm embrace.
India is delighted to welcome HRH Mohammed Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. pic.twitter.com/wBK1F1UZAA
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 19, 2019
National security scenario: Global leaders, including US President Donald Trump and UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, make statements condemning the Pulwama attack.
A Pakistani prisoner was murdered in a Jaipur jail. Officials said it was not connected with the Pulwama attack, but anti-Pakistan slogans were raised.
PM’s schedule: The prime minister spent the day with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman. The two signed several memorandums of understanding.
Modi then left for South Korea.
This evening, I will be leaving for the Republic of Korea at the invitation of President @moonriver365.
We regard the Republic of Korea as a valued friend with which we have a Special Strategic Partnership.
The visit will boost bilateral cooperation. https://t.co/HTIdz1eQwq
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 20, 2019
February 21 – 22:
National security scenario: Nitin Gadkari tweeted that the Modi government had “decided to stop our share of water which used to flow to Pakistan”. It soon became clear that not only was the BJP leader referring to India’s share under the pact, but it was also just a reiteration of a previous decision.
Imran Khan publicly authorised the Pakistan military to “respond decisively and comprehensively to any aggression or misadventure”.
PM’s schedule: Modi reached Seoul, addressed the Indian community, unveiled a bust of Mahatma Gandhi at Yonsei University and delivered a speech at the ‘India-ROK Business Forum’.
He also received the Seoul Peace Prize.
한국 정부와 국민들이 보여준 환대에 감사. 이번 방문으로 양국간 경제 문화적 관계가 가까워질 것임. 강력한 한-인도 협력은 아시아뿐 아니라 전세계를 위해 좋은 일임.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 22, 2019
National security scenario: Yaseen Malik, chief of the Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front, and leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami were detained and their homes raided, amid rumours of wider crackdown on separatists in Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan wrote to the United National Security Council, accusing India of threatening regional security.
US President Donald Trump said the situation between India and Pakistan is “very dangerous”.
PM’s schedule: Modi addressed the Economic Times Global Business Summit.
He also spoke at a BJP rally in Tonk, Rajasthan. Here, he finally broke his silence on violence against Kashmiris across the country after the Pulwama attack – and declared that the fight is for Kashmir, not against Kashmir or Kashmiris.
National security scenario: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan asks Modi to “give peace a chance”.
Modi also tweeted to announce a massive digital interaction and kicking off a electioneering slogan, #MeraBoothSabseMajbooth.
Enrich the programme on 28th by:
Mobilising family & friends to join.
Filling People’s Pulse survey and giving ground level feedback from your constituency.
Donate to BJP, boost morale of Karyakartas.
Share thoughts on NaMo App or social media using #MeraBoothSabseMazboot.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 24, 2019
PM’s schedule: The prime minister addressed two separate public events on February 25 – the Rising India Summit and the inauguration of the National War Memorial in Delhi. His speech drew sharp criticism for politicising the event by attacking the Congress from that platform.
Modi also appeared at the News18 Rising India summit, where he publicised his government’s achievements.
National security scenario: As the Balakot airstrikes across the Line of Control provoked spiralling tensions within India, and between India and Pakistan, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale confirmed the attack, saying “a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and jihadis were eliminated”.
Major Indian cities are put on high alert, and shelling and other ceasefire violations begin on the LoC.
PM’s schedule: Modi addressed a rally in Churu, Rajasthan, opening with a poem that was also the BJP’s 2014 campaign slogan. He also made several claims about the Congress government in the state that don’t quite match reality.
He also unveiled the world’s largest Bhagavad Gita at an ISKCON event in New Delhi, and had a photo-op in the Delhi Metro.
National security scenario: On Wednesday, Pakistan’s F-16 jets entered Indian airspace and conducted airstrikes on open ground, after locking onto military installations. In an aerial skirmish, IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was shot down and taken into custody by the Pakistan army.
PM’s schedule: Modi spoke at the National Youth Parliament Festival 2019 in New Delhi and also interacted with BJP booth workers on a video conference.
National security scenario: Pakistan PM Imran Khan said that the IAF pilot would be released as a “peace gesture”.
PM’s schedule: Modi presented the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prizes for Science and Technology in New Delhi. In his speech, moments after Imran Khan announced that Abhinandan would be freed, Modi made a rather cryptic remark that seemed to allude to the Wing Commander and the situation with Pakistan.
“You people spend your lives in laboratories. It is a custom to first make a ‘pilot project’. Scalability is done after that. Just now one pilot project has been completed,” the prime minister said. “Now we have to make it real, earlier it was just practice.”
National security scenario: On Friday, Pakistan released Abhinandan after a delay of hours. The delay, Indian officials, said, was because the Pakistani military decided to shoot a video of the pilot “for propaganda purposes”.
PM’s schedule: The following day, he addressed a rally in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, where he said that “every Indian is proud that brave Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is from Tamil Nadu”.
Modi didn’t greet Abhinandan on his return, and around an hour after the pilot was handed over, he tweeted:
Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan!
The nation is proud of your exemplary courage.
Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 1, 2019