In the aftermath of the Pulwama attack on February 14, India, in an effort to defend itself and fight against terror, launched a pre-emptive, non-military strike against the Jaish-e-Mohammed camps in Pakistan. Pakistan predictably struck back and in what ensued as a dog fight on mid-air, an MIG- 21 was shot down in Pakistan administered Kashmir making Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman a prisoner of war for three days. The country heaved a sigh of relief when Wing Commander stepped onto the Indian soil at the Wagah border at 9:22 p.m. on March 1st.
Amidst the tensions building up during the excruciating three days for the country, there built up within its citizens a sense of patriotism and oneness where the country stood in solidarity with the defense and government to bring him back. A surgical strike in 2016 incited a similar kind of euphoric unanimity in India. Here arises a question: are we patriotic or nationalistic? Are they the one and the same? The answer is NO.
Patriotism is a feeling of nation pride—pledging alliance with the other citizens of the same country. True patriotism brings in the spirit of reconciliation to heal, unite and abide in peace despite differences. Patriotism breeds in an individual a sense of responsibility toward the country along with love for the country. The Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who led the Non-Violence Movement in India, never sought to breed hatred and animosity. He knew, as a man of ideals and principals, that “war” would never resolve any conflict. It would rather violate the code of patriotism. Patriotism means that the love for one’s countrymen comes first, it means being proud of the country’s virtues and willing to be open to discussions for the betterment of the country.
Nationalism, on the other hand, is where the hatred for the other country comes first. Nationalism is contemptuous towards the virtues of another country. A nationalist loves and is proud of his country, NO MATTER WHAT IT DOES. Nationalism speaks on legitimizing violence and promotes hatred for another country. Nationalism trumpets on its own country’s efficiencies, but is never willing to deal with its own faults.
As much as the country argues on not having civilians on its radar during its counter attacks, the aggressiveness of the media, the social media and many other so called patriotic citizens seem to promote nationalism rather than patriotism. I am not in any way supporting terrorist organizations. I stand against any violence and the country is well aware that this violence marks the most serious escalation since 1999. Escalating the current status will certainly lead to war and will never ever solve the conflict situation.
As much as I am exuberant and celebrate along with my fellow citizens the return of my Indian brother, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman onto the Indian soil, I would love to remain an Indian patriot seeking to love my neighbor. I appreciate and respect our patriotic Wing Commander, who maintained his demeanor, poise and spoke respectively in the midst of life and death situations to the Pakistani military. He showed himself to be a true patriot.
An ancient scripture says, “Forgive one another”. I would love to remain a true patriot of India, choosing to abide by this scripture, not heightening violence and sacrificing my brothers on the border, but by showing solidarity for the country by praying for wisdom, decision-making skills for our leaders, protection over our defense forces, quick de-escalation and resolution of conflicts between the nations. JAI HIND.