It had been six years since his retirement from politics. In every wise, he was unusual. For one, he was hundred and thirty one years of age — an unusual extent of longevity. For another, he became prime minister at the age of sixty and held it for seven uninterrupted terms until the age of ninety-five; and then, after an interregnum of fifteen years, became prime minister for two additional terms, which stretched from the hundred and tenth to the hundred and twentieth years of his age. His stint as prime minister was preceded by a fifteen year long spell of chief ministership of his state. He was still addressed as “Mr. Prime Minister” out of respect. These days of retirement were the gloaming of his life, but he had one final duty to discharge. Something had happened in his first term as premier, from the years 2059 to 2064, and it was revealed through the declassification of documents only during his years of retirement. The country of Mulchistan, long the enemy of Hansavarta and situate to the latter’s west, found itself balkanized as its largest province of Kubhastan in its west, seceded from it and became an independent country, depriving Mulchistan of much military manpower and resources. Mulchistan had already been enfeebled by Hansavarta in the year 1971 when the erstwhile East Mulchistan seceded to form a separate country. It was discovered, sometime in the year 2130, that Hansavarta had designed the secession of Kubhastan, too.

Interviewer: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Prime Minister: Thank you for having me.

Interviewer: Mr. Prime Minister, before I begin with the substance of which we are to speak today, I would like to ask a question that may seem a little strange, but which, I think, is of much significance. My news agency is quite clear as to its purpose behind sanctioning this interview; it seeks to obtain your insights into the rather astounding event of which we are to speak. Ordinarily, one would have expected politicians and bureaucrats associated with such an event never to divulge the secret and pass on without ever answering questions; but, unexpectedly, you have consented to a frank interview. So, my question to you is: why have you consented to this interview?

Prime Minister: I start with the assurance that this is not a strange question at all. In fact, it presents me with a most welcome opportunity. It has been six years since my retirement from politics, and because I lay no claim to perfection, I must have my own fair share of detractors. It is possible that they infer, from my decision to consent to this interview, a desire to draw attention to myself, unable as I am, in their possible view, to accustom myself to a quiet retirement. I hasten to record that such a view would be far from the truth.

  • The event of which we are to speak was quite significant. You are right in observing that, ordinarily, the senior officials associated with this would have taken this secret with them to their eternal rest at the crematorium. But now that the truth of this event has been divulged, I must do my part in lifting the veil. For, I sanctioned it and presided over the operation as Prime Minister; I believe I am well situated to comment on the whole affair. I hasten to assure the viewers that age has not dulled my memory. I believe my ability to speak in sentences of grammatical chastity and of proper sequence attest this plentifully.
  • Besides, an event of such scale is susceptible to accretions of apocryphal elements. Only a factual narration of an event must inform such policymaking as bases itself on that event; but also policymaking in general. It was with the desire not to allow the least apocryphal stain to affect a fact-based reference to the event, that I consented to the interview. No consideration of fame or prestige actuated my decision. I may have retired from politics; but if I have been presented with an opportunity, by an operation of fate, to be of service to the country, I would be remiss to reject it. It must be borne that I did not hunt for this opportunity; it has, happily, detained the march of my uneventful retirement life on its own account.

Interviewer: That is indeed an exhaustive answer. I must now ask: why design this operation? What convinced you that this was of utmost necessity?

Prime Minister: A proper answer to this question must base itself on a passing reference to my political career. It is known that I was involved in politics from the age of twenty-five; but my interest in current affairs long preceded the twenty-fifth year of my age. I was a boy of seventeen, and it was a terrorist attack on one of our Army camps in September 2016 that was the beginning of my interest in current affairs. But what truly brought me in imperishable union with current affairs was our response to this terrorist attack; nineteen of our soldiers were martyred, and we inflicted twice the damage by killing forty of their terrorists. It was no surprise to us that these terrorists were propped up by Mulchistan, ever a safe haven for terrorists of sundry hues.

  • There swelled a wave of nationalism in our country, and I found myself insensibly washed away by it. My neonate feeling of nationalism based itself on an anti-Mulchistan sentiment: it was not one of utter hate, but I took with zest to social media wars with Mulchistanis, wherein I spent much time mocking and belittling their country. I never took recourse to profanities, though I found many fellow Hansavartans doing so, as did many Mulchistanis.
  • With the passage of time, I became more interested in domestic issues: our agricultural policy, our defence manufacturing, our economy in general, our law and order, and suchlike. Mulchistan receded from importance in my nationalistic outlook. But it did not altogether vanish. By this time, I had read much on our histories and on the adoption by Mulchistan, after ignominious losses in four wars with us, of the strategy of bleeding us by a thousand cuts using state-sponsored terrorism. The Mulchistanis could now kill many more of our soldiers and civilians than they could have in a war void of nuclear exchange, though the numbers would be spread over several years, even decades. And because we were not in a state of formal war, it was doubly difficult for us to persuade the world to prevail over Mulchistan, that it may desist from further peccancies.
  • Then, of course, there was our unprecedented recourse to aerial bombardment deep inside Mulchistan on 26 February 2019.
  • Even when Hansavarta overcame her accustomed hesitation and slowly adopted a stronger posture, our retired military officials, while praising the change, also said that we were not inflicting damage on Mulchistan with sufficient frequency. As fixing a leaking tap is more effective and permanent a strategy to stop spillage than mere and continuous mopping of the spillage, so also was enfeebling the Mulchistani state apparatus more effective a way of arresting the deaths of our soldiers by the busloads than mere assaults on terrorist camps. I became familiar with these views. I knew that our response to the strategy of bleeding us by a thousand cuts could not be one of reciprocity; we had to take a bolder step. A 1971-style dismemberment would be preferable, but we had to accomplish this without a 1971-style war. It was with that conviction that I entered politics.
  • I foresaw my rise to chief ministership, but I had never imagined that I could be prime minister. As chief minister, too, I earned much ire from Mulchistani officials and their minstrels here in Hansavarta when I brought down the force of law on sundry organizations, professing lofty causes, that received shady funding from Mulchistani intelligence. I was denounced as a tyrant by literati, smooth of speech and void of sense. I declared to the media, perhaps with a note of defiance, that if cracking down on iniquitous intrigues made me tyrannical, I would happily plead guilty to the charge of tyranny. I knew that their hobgoblinizations would not pass muster with the people; I was not oppressing the people at large.
  • And then I became prime minister. This I never expected, for I was an able administrator but void of any oratorical virtuosity. I was accustomed, and it is still my practice, to speak in formal, elaborate, and somewhat silver-tongued sentences in Westish; electoral victories needed conversance with native languages. I knew three such native languages, but I could not produce a hypnotic effect on the masses with words. My speeches, therefore, were more statesmanlike and businesslike than akin to political polemic. Thankfully, I had a formidable party machinery to translate any administrative accomplishments I may have had, to a language popular with the electorate, even as I spoke more with data and less with flair while speaking to the electorate of my governance.
  • No sooner had I been sworn into office than I presented the chiefs of staff and intelligence heads with the idea of cutting up Mulchistan. The Army chief in particular spoke foursquare; while appreciating my willingness to be bold, he bluntly told me that the success of such an operation depended on my electoral fortunes. It was highly probable, in his view, that if I should be deprived of a second term, the former opposition party futurely in power could scuttle the operation by petty reason that it was sanctioned by a party to which it stood opposed. I assured him, “General! It is my responsibility to win the next election, and I will return with a thumping majority greater than that which we presently command. Of that you may rest assured. But I want us to win in Mulchistan. I will not have any more soldier deaths on my conscience.”
  • This being settled, they proceeded apace. They arranged a top-secret visit of the leader of the Kubhastani secessionist movement to my office. This was remarkable, given that Indrapura, being our capital city, is not quite known for utmost secrecy; things invariably leak, though the unintended recipients may keep things to themselves. I told him in no uncertain terms that while I was prepared to help them with arms and benefaction, I wanted him and his people to fight competently on the ground, be it to the bitter end. Having spent long years in politics, I had learnt to detect one’s true feelings about anything big — though one may still successfully lie on trivial matters — and about this I saw conviction in his eyes.
  • The Kubhastanis astounded us all with their deadly competence. Mere weeks after receiving the first consignment of arms and funds, they prosecuted a devastating attack on a Mulchistani military base, killing their soldiers in scores and even damaging some of their war machines. I was buoyed by this test step and the operation now stood on surer footing. The Kubhastanis were relentless, and we kept fresh the stream of resources. Simultaneously, we conducted frequent aerial offensives against terrorist camps deep inside Mulchistani territory. We also grew bolder and attacked some of their military bases. Mulchistan was already hanging for dear financial life, and coupled with the need to respond to the Kubhastani conflagration, its resources were spread thin. The Ministry of External Affairs, too, was armed cap a pie in advance with the most felicitous diplomatic tools to present the case to the world for our offensives on Mulchistan’s eastern front. We spun smooth assurances of cooperation with Mulchistan in combating terrorism in our continent; we made equally smooth allusions to Mulchistan’s resource constraints in contributing effectively to our shared vision for a secure region, rendering our action necessary. In addition, we disapproved of Mulchistan’s atrocities and brutalities in Kubhastan and expressed hope that an amicable resolution of differences could be achieved. We were ready to mediate and come up with a modus vivendi. Of course, Mulchistan tried its best to accuse us of violating their sovereignty and kindred things unacceptable to them, but we had the perception advantage. Some in the media, probably seeking to embarrass a government in its tender months, asked me whether we would grant diplomatic recognition to Kubhastan. I merely said that facts and circumstances bore heavily on an answer to such a question.
  • Surprisingly for us, Mulchistan had to acquiesce to Kubhastani secession before my first term in office came to a close. I had not expected such a swift result. But we soon granted diplomatic recognition to Kubhastan, and swiftly entered into a deal with its incipient government that we would there establish a military base. To secure the region against any retribution that might be forthcoming from Mulchistan was our priority.
  • My party, of course, exploited this incident to the hilt during the elections, saying that great things had begun to unfold under my premiership, and that my very presence was propitious. When asked whether I had anything to do with it, the politicians in my party would smoothly insist that such questions were for the prime minister to answer. And, of course, I would answer categorically in the negative.
  • Thus did it all unfold.

Interviewer: It was all truly historic. In one of the biographies written on you, I read that, during your stint as chief minister, some uncharitable references were made to your Brahmin identity after you brought down the sceptre of the law, to which you had referred a while ago. It was said that unleashing tyranny must have come naturally to you as a Brahmin. It was later revealed that much of this narrative had its origin in Mulchistan.

Prime Minister: Indeed. But though Mulchistan peddled this with zest, it was with no less vigour and enthusiasm that our own minstrels of social justice, not necessarily on the payrolls of Mulchistan, sang the same hymns of hate. Fortunately, by the time I ascended to premiership, such caste strife was fast becoming unfashionable; and Brahmins had begun becoming sober after decades of guilty stupor. I attribute it, at least in part, to a revival of true religious consciousness, which eventually triumphed over manifestoes of strife that had crept into our founding as a Republic. I am glad to have lived long enough to see it subside into oblivion.

Interviewer: Mr. Prime Minister, now that upwards of six decades have passed since the event, do you feel contrite, in any way, that you took so bold a step? Naturally, it had the effect of trapping some blameless Mulchistani civilians in the crossfire between the Kubhastani separatists and Mulchistani military. Do thoughts of that make you uneasy?

Prime Minister: They do, in a small measure. But then, I was Prime Minister of Hansavarta, not of Mulchistan. The fact that Hansavartan soldiers in particular kept falling to Mulchistani terrorism weighed much more heavily on my heart than concerns for blameless Mulchistani civilians ever could. My responsibility was always towards Hansavartans and not towards Mulchistanis. But the very fact that you should pose me a question itself illustrates the difference between Hansavarta and Mulchistan. The latter was an entity founded on hate for us and specifically hate for our native faith; the faith that lent to us a sense of cultural unity, which became the basis for our existence as a Union. We, in contrast, are not quick to hate. Without scruple or principle, Mulchistan kept pursuing a steady course of attrition against our forces. Despite this, previous governments erred on the side of caution, and even initiated peace talks, only to be backstabbed. I do not denounce my predecessors for having made such humane attempts; I merely say that I was not feeling as charitable. Something had to be done, and this was it.

Interviewer: On that incisive note, it is time for us to conclude the interview. Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister; and here is to hoping the nation drinks to your health.

Prime Minister: Thank You.

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