Making peace with Modi’s India
Mohsin Raza Malik
Pakistan has long been emphatic that India is primarily responsible for the ever-deteriorating relations between the two countries. It also accuses India of wilfully sabotaging the dialogue process; a so-called peace process whereby both neighbouring countries has been endeavouring to improve their bilateral relations after peacefully resolving their longstanding bilateral disputes, including the core issue of Kashmir. The world community has just observed how India, once again, turned Pakistan’s initiative to resume the suspended dialogue process into an instant fiasco through its stubborn and arrogant attitude last week. This diplomatic fiasco essentially supports Pakistan’s stance as well as accusation against India vis-à-vis this long-suspended dialogue process. Instead of substantially reciprocating this Pakistan’s ‘peace offer’, India just refused to resume dialogue process by resorting to its signature terror-related diatribe against Pakistan. In fact, India has long been employing these typical tactics to avoid negotiation with Pakistan due to obvious reasons. Unfortunately, while doing so, it has never bothered about the things like diplomatic norms, niceties and etiquette.
Prime Minister Imran Khan offered an olive branch to India soon after coming into power in Pakistan. In his victory speech, Imran Khan looked forward to improving Pak-India relations. Later, none other than a number of Indian former cricketers were invited to attend PM-elect Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony in Islamabad last month. Indian cricketer-turned-politician Sidhu was also warmly greeted by Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa during this ceremony. Last week, PM Imran Khan also formally wrote a letter to Indian PM Modi seeking resumption of dialogue process between the two countries. He also specifically sought a meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan on the side-lines of UNGA. Responding to Imran Khan’s offer, India initially accepted the proposal of the meeting by saying: “It will be just a meeting, not a resumption of dialogue.” However, India instantly backtracked by announcing calling off the meeting by accusing Pakistan of advancing an ‘evil agenda’. Citing reasons behind the cancellation of the scheduled meeting, Indian External Affairs ministry spokesperson said that the barbaric killing of a BSF Jawan by Pakistan troops near international border in Jammu and Kashmir, abduction and brutal killing of three police officials in south Kashmir by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan Post glorifying terrorists confirm that “Islamabad will not mend its ways”.
The Indian ‘reasoning’ behind calling off this scheduled meeting hardly holds water; as a matter of fact, the ‘deeply disturbing developments’ cited by India had taken place much earlier than the announcement of this scheduled meeting. The postage stamps carrying images of Kashmiris freedom fighters Burhan Wani and others were issued in July this year before the general elections. Moreover, after rejecting Indian allegations about the killing of police officials in J&K, Pakistan has also offered to initiate a joint investigation into this incident. It is a fact that India has become accustomed to level unsubstantiated terror-related allegations against Pakistan to achieve its broader diplomatic goals, including avoiding of dialogue with Pakistan. It is also a fact that India has imposed a proxy war on Pakistan through its hostile intelligence apparatus comprising numerous spies like Kulbhushan Jadhav. It is also fanning certain Baloch separatist movements in Pakistan by harbouring and supporting the exiled so-called Baloch nationalist leaders. Notwithstanding this fact, Pakistan has recently extended an olive branch to India without any precondition.
Following the recent Pak-India dialogue fiasco, India army chief Bipin Rawat just threated to take limited military action against Pakistan by saying that “talks and terrorism can’t go hand in hand” and “it’s a time to give it back to Pakistan in the same coin.” Strongly reacting to this un-called for statement made by India army chief, DG ISPR Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor said: “We need to maintain peace in the region and it should not be misconstrued as our weakness. India should not retort to war mongering”. Reportedly, India is also going to celebrate September 29 as “Surgical Strike Day” to mark the second anniversary of Indian army’s claimed surgical strike across LOC in Pakistan in 2016. Pakistan Army has already rejected this Indian claim after terming it a” false propaganda”. In fact, India is in no apparent position to launch any significant military offensive against Pakistan as there exists a perfect balance of power between the two countries vis-a-vis both nuclear as well as conventional military fields. India has no substantial military edge over Pakistan. Instead, Pakistan possesses superior air power as well as a more accurate delivery system. Moreover, as part of its Full Spectrum Deterrence (FSD) strategy, Pakistan has also developed a number of short-range-low-yield (SRLY) tactical ballistic missiles to issue a ‘qualitative response’ to India’s cunningly-designed military strategy against Pakistan such as the Cold Start Doctrine and Pro-Active Operations (POA).
Making peace with Modi’s India has been anything but easy for Pakistan during the last five years. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was rather over-optimistic about improving Pakistan’s bilateral relations with India. Therefore, after being elected as prime minister, he expressed his desire to invite Indian PM Manmohan Singh to attend his oath-taking ceremony in 2013. Later, he himself proceeded to India to participate in the swearing-in ceremony of PM-elect Narendra Modi in New Delhi. However, PM Modi mocked Nawaz Sharif instead of reciprocating his goodwill gesture. He proactively launched a concerted diplomatic onslaught against Pakistan to isolate it internationally. Addressing a large public rally in Indian state of Kerala in 2016, he publicly vowed to spearhead a global campaign to isolate Pakistan in the world. So, Modi’s India actively tried to tarnish the positive image of Pakistan in the world through its ‘negative branding’. It has steadily been pointing the finger at Pakistan for “harbouring, supporting and sponsoring terrorists”. For this single purpose, it extensively employed the primary tools of conventional and non-conventional diplomacy in the world. Moreover, it is also readily exploiting all the potential multilateral forums, ranging from the UN to BRICS, SAARC, and HoA-IP etc.
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Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), which was originally organised as a political wing of RSS, officially adopted the Hindutva ideology in 1989. Ever since, it has diligently been pursuing radical Hindu nationalist policies in India. PM Modi is the Parliamentary leader of BJP, who is best known for his anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan credentials. He never missed any opportunity to harm and malign Pakistan. He was frequently seen resorting to his anti-Pakistan rhetoric during the 2014 general elections campaign. Since next Indian parliamentary elections are just around the corner, it is being predicted that Modi-led Indian government would intensify its war of words against Pakistan. Therefore, it is very likely that Pak-India bilateral relations would further deteriorate in the days to come. And the military tension between two countries would escalate. The recent cancellation of scheduled meeting between the foreign ministers of two countries on the side-lines of UNGA and Indian army chief’s recent anti-Pakistan statement are also being viewed in this particular context.
The Rafale fighter aircraft scam in India is also being cited another reason behind the recent U-turn of Modi-led NDA government vis-à-vis Pakistan. This multi-billion-dollar scam has put the political future of many Indian government minsters, including PM Modi, at stake after severely shaking their political credibility and integrity. Terming it the country’s ‘biggest ever’ defence scam, Indian National Congress president Rahul Gandhi has also demanded a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into this controversial defence deal. However, Indian government is trying its best to brush this scam under the carpet. A senior BJP union minster Ravi Shankar Prasad has also accused Rahul Gandhi of playing into the hands of Pakistan China. Therefore, there is every likelihood that, as usual, the Indian government would blame Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency ISI for orchestrating this scam against Modi-led NDA government.
Since it is obvious now that there will be no thaw in Pak-India relations during the Modi regime in India, Pakistan should look forward to improving this relationship with the next Indian government. We can only hope the new government in Delhi would value and comprehend the significance of peace in this region. And there can be no durable peace in this region until both South Asian nuclear states learn to stay as good neighbours after resolving their longstanding disputes.