India’s prime minister Narendra Modi had led a very involved election campaign for the 2014 parliamentary election in India. He had connected to an staggeringly large number of Indian people, both by being physically addressing large number of rallies, as well as by using technology, social media being a prominent avenue. He was articulate. He made his and his alliance’s position clear on almost all matters of importance. He, however, had spoken relatively less about one important matter – what position will his government take on Pakistan? It is not known why he had left this aspect open for interpretation, but possible reasons could be (1) to create elbow room for his government, and (2) retain an element of surprise that is so very important in foreign policy.
While stopping short of specifically spelling out his Pakistan policy, he had laid down the broad parameters within which his policy would be framed. There are four such parameters which he had laid down in course of various interactions/speeches/interviews, and these are as following:
- His government, like all Indian governments, will be bound by the parliamentary resolution affirming entire state of Jammu & Kashmir being an integral part of India.
- Terror and talk can not go on simultaneously.
- India will not threaten anyone, India will not be threatened, India will build relationship with other countries from a confident footing.
- India will get her own act right on the holistic canvass of overall governance, and once that happens, things will be okay.
After nearly one-and-half years of Narendra Modi assuming power, it is interesting to see the contours of his ‘Pakistan policy’. Even now, he has never articulated what his government’s policy is, but actions speak louder than words. For quite some time, many observers have been puzzled with his government’s actions regarding Pakistan. At first, Modi had invited Nawaz Sharif, during his oath-taking ceremony, along with other Presidents/Prime-ministers of the neighboring countries. Then there was supposed to be a foreign-secretary-level India-Pakistan dialogue, which India cancelled when Pakistan insisted on meeting Hurriyat Conference. Then there were very significant ceasefire violations by Pakistan, to which India responded very forcefully. Then there was meeting between Modi and Nawaz Sharif again in the Russian city of Ufa, where a decision of initiating National-Security-Adviser-level dialogue was taken. Then again Pakistan’s insistence on meeting Hurriyat Conference resulted into India cancelling this dialogue. During the UNGA of 2015, Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif complained against supposed ‘indian occupation’ of Kashmir, to which India responded aggressively, turning the table on Pakistan and asking Pakistan to vacate Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and other Pakistan-occupied areas (Gilgit, Baltistan etc). Many observers termed this train of events as ‘Flip-flop’. Are they correct?
This blogger’s contention is that Modi’s Pakistan policy is not comprising of ‘Flip-flops’. Rather, it is a policy that has been crafted carefully, and is being implemented consistently. Only future can tell us what the results are, though.
What constitutes this policy? The following:
- Vigorously engage with the other countries, whether they are in immediate neighborhood, or extended neighborhood, or far-removed, from a position of win-win. Remove India-Pakistan hyphenation completely. Relentlessly execute this purposeful diplomacy, to break the confinement of four lines (Line of Control, Durand Line, Line of actual control and McMahon line). How important is it to break the confines of the four lines? It can only be gauged by reading Jaswant Singh’s book ‘India at Risk’.
- Negotiate with Pakistan only from a position of strength. Question of redrawing boundary by India unilaterally giving up territory is no longer even acceptable. Multiple Indian Union Government Ministers (Retired General V K Singh and Dr. Jitendra Singh are prime examples) have on multiple occasions commented openly that Pakistan must vacate areas they have illegally occupied. This signifies a crucial hardening of position on India’s part. No future government of India can soften these positions, because if they do, they run a severe risk of losing public support. Regular statements keep the pressure up on Pakistan. Similarly, no future government will be able to take a softer position on Pakistan meeting Hurriyat again.
- Expend no significant political capital on the chimera of ‘Peace with Pakistan’. Indeed, Modi hardly comments on Pakistan. During his entire September-2015 trip to the United States of America, during which he had attended UNGA, while he was scathing on the matter of terrorism, he did not even acknowledge Pakistan. During UN peacekeeping conference, as a mark of courtesy, he waved at Nawaz Sharif, but that was all that he would acknowledge of Pakistan. The India-Pakistan meetings – all cancelled later due to Pakistan’s intransigence on meeting Hurriyat – were either at bureaucrat-level, or with very limited agenda (only terrorism), clearly short of any significant political investment. Modi is clearly not chasing Nobel peace prize via a Utopian ‘Peace with Pakistan’. He understands that without Pakistan conclusively discarding its virulently anti-India ideology, no peace with Pakistan is possible just by Indian overtures.
- Pay Pakistan back severely for every misadventure. Every ceasefire violation by Pakistan has been retaliated by the Indian security forces with overwhelming ferocity. In a marked departure from past, now Pakistan runs to UN after ceasefire violations, because of the heavy retaliation from Indian security forces make Pakistan pay heavy price for ceasefire violations. Steady neutralization of terrorists by other terrorists in the Kashmir valley (with no one claiming responsibility for the murder of the terrorists) is only resulting into further denuding of Pakistan’s terrorist-cells in Kashmir. The video showing Pakistan brutality in PoK and residents shouting pro-India slogan, immediately before to Nawaz’s speech in the UNGA, can not be entirely accidental.
Is this policy paying off? The ultimate results will only be known in future. However, judging by how Pakistan’s opinion-makers have worked themselves into a frenzy over what supposed conspiracies are being hatched by India’s NSA Ajit Doval (Keerti Chakra), Pakistan’s powerful elite is facing the heat. A further proof of the early effectiveness of Modi’s policy can also be found in the criticism Pakistan media has heaped on Nawaz Sharif, after comparing Modi’s US visit (source: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/pakistan-media-on-pm-modis-us-visit/1/484625.html). No flip-flop, then.