Dealing with Modi’s India

Published: October 19, 2015
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The writer is an author, a public policy analyst and former interior secretary. He teaches at LUMS

The writer is an author, a public policy analyst and former interior secretary. He teaches at LUMS

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s four-point agenda aired at the UN General Assembly as a way forward to build peace in the subcontinent was dismissed by India in no time. Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj did not even acknowledge for a moment that the key points aired by the prime minister were not something that came out exclusively from a Pakistani brain. Indeed, these points were the result of a long-drawn thought process which had involved the best Indian brains as well as Pakistani ones. They were the end product of a series of negotiations and deliberations held over the years during formal parleys, as well as during track two diplomacy efforts between the two countries.

India’s insistence on a one-point agenda for talks — terrorism — has never been questioned by Pakistan; however, realising the complexity of the Indo-Pak tangle, causative factors related to Pakistan are as relevant as symptomatic undercurrents. This had been fairly clear to India in the past, but driven by the internal agenda set by RSS ideologues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government continues to give a whole new spin to the entire framework through rigid and at times coercive posturing, hoping to exhaust Pakistan’s patience. As luck would have it, India still has not been able to meet with any success in this regard.

Pakistan feels that talks on terrorism between the two countries cannot be meaningful on a stand-alone basis. The issue of terrorism needs to be disaggregated by classifying its sources. It is time now to distinguish between a home-spun militant and the one with cross-border footprints. Such homework should be a prelude to any sustainable framework. One is also keen to know how alleged cross-border ingress takes place when there is prohibitive fencing on the Indian side. In case of violations, how many disciplinary cases and court martials are conducted against Indian border security personnel for their failure to prevent their occurrence?

Another question that arises is that why does Pakistan keep imploring for talks. The urge for engagement has to be a mutual one. With the Modi government at the helm, it is interesting to note the condescendence with which it has been treating all its neighbours. Recent developments in Nepal, for instance, provide some food for thought. Nepal has come up with a constitutional framework ending a protracted civil war. The new dispensation provides for different distinct regions with de-centralised governance. Much to the chagrin of the Nepalese leadership, India has been trying to exert its influence and pressurise the country to follow its diktat when it comes to implementing the new arrangement, even suggesting the way different regions should be carved out. An emissary was especially flown to Kathmandu in this regard. There was a sit-in staged recently by ethnic Madhesis and Tharus against the new Nepalese constitutional framework, alleging that they were not favourably accommodated in it. It is interesting to note that these two ethnic groups are of Indian origin and live in the Terai region along the Indian border. Their sit-in coincided with the worst blockade that Nepal has ever faced as the movement of petroleum products was completely stopped, bringing life in the country to a standstill.
Bangladesh, despite the very India-friendly disposition of the Awami League government, has also had its anxious moments. Prime Minister Modi, during his last visit to the country, agreed to the implementation of the exchange of landlocked enclaves between the two countries. The much-touted accord was, in fact, a delayed implementation of an agreement already made some 40 years ago. However, a much more critical issue which is affecting Bangladesh’s lifeline, namely, river water distribution, continues to sour relations. The ‘rice bowl’ of the country in the north is not getting equitable supply as the upper riparian neighbour has unilaterally constructed a barrage upstream on the Teesta River. Around 20 million people in the Teesta basin are affected because of the depleted and irregular flow of the river water. Bangladesh hoped for a breakthrough during the Modi visit, but the issue continues to simmer.

Sri Lanka had been in the spotlight recently for the cryptic role of Indian intelligence agencies in clubbing together the Sri Lankan opposition in the last presidential elections, which the all-powerful president Mahinda Rajapaksa lost. At the same time, India took umbrage at the docking of two Chinese naval vessels at the Colombo port in September last year. Sri Lanka had to come up with an explanation, saying that this was a routine call by the two vessels while they were on their way to the Gulf of Aden. Even Myanmar felt the heat a few months ago when Indian forces reportedly chased Naga militants into Myanmar territory, without informing the government. Next in line is Maldives. The government in Male, during Sushma Swaraj’s visit to the country, expressed serious reservations about interference in its internal affairs.

Pakistan, indeed, is a different ball game and the Indian leadership realises its limitations. One may foresee difficult times for Modi if his government continues to adopt a cavalier attitude, both at home and abroad. Corporate India can have no truck with RSS ideologues for too long. The gruesome lynching of an elderly Muslim by a frenzied mob for allegedly eating beef is an expose of a narrative which the ruling party and its ideologues have so assiduously cultivated. Prime Minister Modi, instead of condemning the dastardly act, maintained silence for over a week and then opened up by exhorting Hindus and Muslims to fight against poverty rather than fighting each other. This is callousness at its height.

Engaging with Pakistan does not seem to be the BJP’s priority and the subcontinent continues to miss the kind of vision that was brought to the fore by leaders of the ilk of Atal Behari Vajpayee. What should Pakistan do in such a situation? We should try to manage the stalemate, interspersed with fiery exchanges, with a sense of proportion. As a corollary of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, there should be greater circumspection on Pakistan’s part, with zero tolerance when it comes to allowing its soil for cross-border forays. Any provocation from the other side along the Line of Control should be swiftly retaliated with proportion. Pakistan also needs to improve its narrative and the four-point agenda should be reiterated at every international forum as part of this narrative. A sustained diplomatic effort is needed for this. Pakistan should keep all channels active with key global players keenly interested in fostering peace and tranquility in the region. This requires a major out-of-the-box diplomatic revamping.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • Sameer
    Oct 20, 2015 - 1:02AM

    Hahaha except pak , India have strong business relations with all the neighbours n world community…just check on internet n Wikipedia.
    whole world is becoming partner of India, so you please keep live in fantasyRecommend

  • ANEEL
    Oct 20, 2015 - 1:53AM

    No one even bothered to comment on this stupid articleRecommend

  • sabi
    Oct 20, 2015 - 2:17AM

    There is no point in dwelling in the past. We repaid Vajpayee’s peace effort with Kargil. Let us focus on internal issues. There is yet another blast, this time in Quetta. Can RAW be tackled by continuous confrontation with India? Recommend

  • Sandip
    Oct 20, 2015 - 5:27AM

    “This requires a major out-of-the-box diplomatic revamping.”.
    Ah now we see. Looks like the Pakistani foreign office preempted the former interior secretary by coming up with the “Houbara Bustard” as a pillar of Pakistani foreign policy as one way of major “out-of-the-box” diplomatic revamp. What are we going to hear next? Some Nihari shop of Karachi being the lynchpin of Pakistan’s pivot towards China?Recommend

  • Anjaan
    Oct 20, 2015 - 8:32AM

    The author maintains the Pakistani line of argument that terrorism has to be seen in the light of its source, which is the Kashmir dispute. Which by extension justifies the Mumbai massacre by the Pakistani gunmen, and Pakistan’s refusal to provide voice sample of Zakiur Lakhvi. The current hard line stance taken by the Modi Govt. is precisely to counter this Pakistani position on terrorism.
    The Vajpayee-Musharraf formula, although considered out of the box then, seems to be obsolete now, at least with the people of India. The current Indian leadership recognizes, and rightly so, that joint control of the Kashmir region is an Utopian concept that would only open a Pandora’s box, and would eventually go beyond the control of the Indian side.
    Recommend

  • vinsin
    Oct 20, 2015 - 9:10AM

    Fact is that India and Pakistan talks since 1947 have not resulted in any resolution. Modi job is not to give comments on every murder or riots taking place in India. How many time Nawaz Sharif spoken for minorities and their forced conversion in Pakistan? Four point agenda is deviant from UN resolution. Recommend

  • rajesh
    Oct 20, 2015 - 9:14AM

    And dear Sir, how did Pakistan respond to the vision of Atal Bihari Vajpayee? Remember how Pakistan back stabbed him with Kargil? So you want Modi to take the same path… no way.Recommend

  • ajeet
    Oct 20, 2015 - 9:17AM

    Lets see the kind of relationship Pakistan has with three of its neighbors, India , Afghanistan and Iran. So friendly and peaceful that it has to studied in universities across the world as the way diplomacy is conducted.Recommend

  • zoro
    Oct 20, 2015 - 9:33AM

    Good recreational read … But not as good as Harry Potter tough ….Recommend

  • indian
    Oct 20, 2015 - 10:04AM

    you can talk about the international relationship between our countries but you have no right to comment on our internal matters.Keep your Muslim solidarity to your internal sector.Recommend

  • Joe
    Oct 20, 2015 - 11:40AM

    Phew … this is not 1999 . The deal you are getting at that time is on the differential of 2 countries. Now the condition is different , don’t expect anything now.Recommend

  • V. C. Bhutani
    Oct 20, 2015 - 12:32PM

    Please allow me just a word about your use of the word ‘ilk’ when you were talking of Vajpayee. Your context about Vajpayee is wholly appreciative. The word ‘ilk’ is used only in a pejorative sense. I am sure this was not your intention. V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, 20 Oct 2015, 1300 ISTRecommend

  • LOL
    Oct 20, 2015 - 1:16PM

    Great to see all Indian readers bashing Pak as usual on this article, but not even one replied to your arguments related to Sri Lanka, Bangla, Maldives, Myanmar.
    You see Sir, never talk facts with Indians, truth bites them really bad and they go back to 1999 , 1947 instead of replying to facts happening just a couple of weeks ago.Recommend

  • Feroz
    Oct 20, 2015 - 2:00PM

    @LOL:
    Yes, only Pakistani citizens know the Truth. The world is blind so they cannot recognize the great achievements of Pakistan, nor can they see the evil actions of India. Keep laughing ! Recommend

  • Hella
    Oct 20, 2015 - 2:54PM

    Whether India has good relations with all or none of its neighbours should hardly be Pakistan’s concern. Pakistan is pretty helpless when it comes to influencing India’s relations with other nations. On the other hand India controls Pakistan’s foreign policy. All of Pakistan’s foreign policy issues be it relations with the US, China, GCC, Afghanistan, Iran and other Muslim countries is decided through its India prism. Recommend

  • LOL
    Oct 20, 2015 - 3:45PM

    @Hella: “All of Pakistan’s foreign policy issues be it relations with the US, China, GCC, Afghanistan, Iran and other Muslim countries is decided through its India prism.” HAHAHAHAHAHA

    and why was India not able to stop CPEC and Pak-Russia contracts despite all efforts ?
    You are so strong that you are receiving threats from Nepal and Maldives. Wake up.Recommend

  • Vectra
    Oct 20, 2015 - 3:46PM

    India’s national interest is of paramount importance and will be protected at any cost whether it may be anyone no matterRecommend

  • sabi
    Oct 20, 2015 - 4:10PM

    @Sameer:
    @Sandip:
    @ajeet:
    @Joe:
    @indian:
    Modi is a dangerous man for India I repeat it again he is a dangerous man for India.He is going to plague your constitution with kind of worst legislation that will destroy the social fabrics of India for many many many years to come.The only way to avert this happening is to resist it with full force.Are you people ready for that?.. prospects don’t look bright.Recommend

  • anwar
    Oct 20, 2015 - 4:12PM

    “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government continues to give a whole new spin to the entire framework through rigid and at times coercive posturing, hoping to exhaust Pakistan’s patience. As luck would have it, India still has not been able to meet with any success in this regard.”The above quote is the crux of a comprehensive analysis vis a vis the state of relations between Pakistan and India.It is a compliment to the foreign policy of the present government reflecting a seasoned approach by the establishment on the whole.The author has rightly foreseen difficult times for Modi if his government continues to adopt a cavalier attitude, both at home and abroad.Under the circumstances to divert the public opinion at home and abroad what would suits Moodi and RSS the most is the loss of nerves on the part of Pakistan.What they would love to have is a non democratic government is Pakistan as it always makes easier for them to Paint Pakistan as bad guy at home as well as international platform.Recommend

  • Muneeb
    Oct 20, 2015 - 6:43PM

    Aneel.
    You do not have anything to offer or contend except calling the piece stupid . One can imagine the bite that it has caused around . Keep your chin high as you had splash of events these days exhibiting “shining India’ , relish it , and leave your spite for some other day lRecommend

  • Zafar
    Oct 20, 2015 - 7:09PM

    I wonder why Indians are so Pakistan – centric ! don’t you have any good thing to do on Indian news websites ;) Don’t know why they are so obsessed with us.Recommend

  • Usman777
    Oct 20, 2015 - 7:20PM

    @LOL
    Of course Indians cannot stop CPEC.
    Brother, all of our injuries are self-inflicted. CPEC may not go through because of internal problems not external. If we stand united RAW can do very little. But we are bitterly divided along ethnic and sectarian lines and are at each other’s throats. Recommend

  • Shetty
    Oct 20, 2015 - 7:55PM

    @LOL..”You see Sir, never talk facts with Indians, truth bites them really bad and they go back to 1999 , 1947 instead of replying to facts happening just a couple of weeks ago”

    What if i sneak in to Pakistan burn ur house n run back to india…will u forget what i did even after year’s have passed…Think about itRecommend

  • NP
    Oct 20, 2015 - 8:44PM

    “Engaging with Pakistan does not seem to be the BJP’s priority and the subcontinent continues to miss the kind of vision that was brought to the fore by leaders of the ilk of Atal Behari Vajpayee.”

    And what happened to Vajpayee’s vision in 199? Kargill. What happened when he tried again in July 2001? Rewarded with attempted attack on Parliament. It is only when he took a really tough stand and practiced coercive diplomacy with the army at the border for 10 months, that Musharraf signed the LOC ceasefire treaty. He also gave in writing that Pakistani land would not be used by terrorists against Indian civilians.Recommend

  • Indian
    Oct 20, 2015 - 9:30PM

    @sabi:
    Thank you for your concerns towards our country but ..who do you think is getting benefited from all this..certainly not the BJP ..its Congress BSP RJD JD JDU etc..its politics at its best. the one in centre whether it be BJP or congress or whatever is always at the recieivng end..all parties be it left or right wingers will do anything to put the other back and make the country suffer…I am not sure how it happens in your country…But Mr,Modi is the hardest working PM India has had in recent times. He works 12-13 hrs a day even during nine day navratri fasting only survivng on water for nine days ..who you think should be PM of India.. Rahul Gandhi..it will be curtains for India. And let me tell you the biggest polarisers are not right wingers but the media itself only to earn TRPs.
    Again thak you for your concern towards our country..Stay happy peace.Recommend

  • Sandip
    Oct 20, 2015 - 10:13PM

    @sabi: Thanks so much for your concern Sabi. You may rest in peace in the knowledge that Indian constitution is rock solid. As such I would like to offer our experience and expertise in nation building so you too can get a constitution that puts everyone in their rightful place. Last we knew about Pakistani constitution was that a parallel judicial system to try the civilians in military courts has been set up. Whereas we all know what happened to the civilian effort to so much as ensure the presence of former military strongmen in the civilian court. May God give your civilians strength to bear this new onslaught.Recommend

  • JSM
    Oct 20, 2015 - 11:20PM

    More than a year back, India under Modi started setting up a game of chess wherein there will be absolutely no dialogue with Pakistan. The reasons for India not wanting dialogue with Pakistan are discussed to death in the above comments, Pakistan tried to get Kashmir from India by force- it failed. Now it is trying by international diplomacy- I hope Pakistan understands that India will not give in. Frequently a threat that Pakistan has nuclear weapons is also delivered. It is obvious that India has achieved the objective.And Pakistan’s handling of 26/11 has finally settled the fate of India Pakistan relations for almost ever.

    CPEC etc are non-issues for India. There are a number of corporate houses in India who have pockets deep enough to make investments of that size from their own funds.Indian protests against it are just symbolic.

    ET- Publish it- it is factual statement of facts.Recommend

  • Selvaraj
    Oct 20, 2015 - 11:35PM

    Why do Pakistan want any relation,interaction with India and why do pakistani think Indians should oblige them with any talk or concession. Simple fact is close to 92% of Indians would rather have no dealing at all with Pakistan and rather have 24 feet tall wall on the border to avoid seeing any Pakistani at all. There is nothing common between two countries and they both must go their own respective way.Recommend

  • Anticorruption
    Oct 21, 2015 - 5:09AM

    Don’t these Indian trolls have anything better to do instead of posting tons of trash on these ET forums?Recommend

  • sabi
    Oct 21, 2015 - 7:39AM

    @Indian:
    @Sandip:
    We were ignorant,weak ,apathetic or overconfident whatever you call it fact is, we failed to nip the evil at the bud.Today we are busy cleaning the mess but only after reaping the ‘bumper’ crop of the Frankenstein monster.Today history seems to repeat itself on the other side of the border with same attitude by Indian public that once we showed and eventually suffered.
    This is therefore a sane advise from our part of the world to our neighbours-Zero tolerance to pseudo nationalism.
    Thank you both for kind reply.
    Peace.Recommend

  • observer
    Oct 21, 2015 - 8:36AM

    Engaging with Pakistan does not seem to be the BJP’s priority and the subcontinent continues to miss the kind of vision that was brought to the fore by leaders of the ilk of Atal Behari Vajpayee.

    You mean the same Vajpayee who got stabbed in the back with Kargil?

    That does not sound very ‘Visionary’.Recommend

  • prabhjyot singh madan
    Oct 21, 2015 - 4:14PM

    @sabi:
    Relax, we Indians are not fools. Let the elections come and bjp will get a hammering of a lifetime. Let the sensible Indians walk the talk rather than commenting on a MAD man. Rab rakha
    P.s all fellow Indian brothers I have the right to state my views just like you do to defend your demi god guaranteed by the constitution. So relax and enjoy a cup of teaRecommend

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