For Two Weeks, While India Debated War, the Prime Minister's Busy Schedule

From a film-shoot in Corbett after the Pulwama attack, to campaign rallies while Abhinandan was in captivity, where all has Narendra Modi been?

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.

One of several photographs tweeted by Rahul Gandhi of the prime minister in Jim Corbett national park. Credit: Twitter/RahulGandhi

February 14:

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.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays tribute to the CRPF jawans killed in the Pulwama attack, at AFS Palam in New Delhi. Credit: PTI/Manvender Vashist

February 15:

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.

Modi in Yavatmal. Credit: PIB

February 16:

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.

There was also dispersed violence and targeting of Kashmiri students in India, and riots took place in Jammu city despite a curfew.

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.

Separatists in Kashmir/Modi in Barauni. Credit: PTI files/PIB

February 17:

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.

The killing of JeM’s Ghazi led to fake images spreading on news channels /Modi with the president of Argentina. Credit: Twitter/PIB

February 18:

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.

The army in Kashmir/Modi in Varanasi. Credit: Reuters files/PIB

February 19:

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.

Modi with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Credit: PIB

February 20:

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.

Modi in South Korea. Credit: PIB

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.

February 23:

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.

Imran Khan/Modi awarding sanitation workers at Kumbh. Credit: Reuters/PIB

February 24:

National security scenario: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan asks Modi to “give peace a chance”.

PM’s schedule: Reached Gorakhpur, where he launches the PM-Kisan Scheme. He also visited the Kumbh at Prayagraj and addressed the Swachh Kumbh and Swachh Aabhaar programme.

Modi also tweeted to announce a massive digital interaction and kicking off a electioneering slogan, #MeraBoothSabseMajbooth.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inauguration of the National War Memorial. Credit: PTI

February 25:

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.

Modi unveiling the world’s largest Bhagavad Gita. Credit: PIB

February 26:

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.

An IAF MIG 21 Bison/Modi addressing the National Youth Parliament Festival. Credit: PTI/PIB

February 27:

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.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan/Modi speaking on February 28. Credit: Reuters/PIB

February 28:

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.”

PM Modi in Kanyakumari. Credit: PTI

March 1:

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: