How will Narendra Modi deal with Pakistan?
BJP under Narendra Modi is ruling the roost in India for the third time. This time its victory was comprehensive. BJP traces its roots to Bharatiya Jana Sangh, established in 1951, as a political wing of RSS. In 1967, BJP gained substantial foothold in Hindi speaking regions of northern India. BJP firmly established itself under Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1980. In 1984, the BJP won only two seats and in 1991 with 117 seats it formed governments in four States. Demolition of Babri mosque and deaths of over 1000 Muslims by RSS fanatics in December 1992 popularized BJP among extremist Hindus but undermined its popularity among the Indian Muslims and seculars. To rebuild its image, BJP leaders undertook series of Rath Yatras, in which Hindu god Rama was invoked as a symbol of cultural renaissance. In 1996, BJP emerged as the single largest party but failing to muster required majority, it collapsed. In 1999, BJP won 182 seats and formed a government with its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) consisting of 20 parties. It lost to Congress led UPA in 2004 and could bag only 137 seats. BJP’s tally went down to 116 seats in 2009 elections. This time BJP bagged record-breaking 283 seats.
Narendra Modi came into prominence in 2001 after he won elections in Gujarat and was appointed chief minister but earned notoriety in the following year. Dawn of 2002 saw worst communal rioting in the aftermath of Gojra train fire incident. Fallaciously blaming Muslims for the death of Hindus, the Hindu zealots pounced upon the Muslims in Gujarat and hacked to death over 2000 Muslim men, women and children who had no connection with the Gojra tragedy. Hundreds of women were raped, many were burnt alive and their shops and houses gutted.
The pogrom went on for three months but the RSS groomed Modi watched the orgy from a distance and took no steps to control the blood sucking mob. Police was found backing the killers and rapists. Modi and his minister Maya Kodnani were charge-sheeted but Modi was later exonerated and Maya’s death sentence was converted to life sentence. Till to-date, he has not apologized for the massacre. He covered up his misdoings by projecting himself as an economic wizard. Economic graph of Gujarat during his second and third stints remained on the high.
While Modi was busy persecuting the Indian Muslims and preaching Hindutva passionately and at the same time improving the economics of Gujarat, Pakistan was in a way fortunate to deal with hostile India but under weak and unassertive Manmohan Singh from 2004 onwards. Now it will be putting up with assertive and fire-breathing Modi who means business. With his heavy mandate coupled with the RSS and other Hindu extremist groups behind him, his extraordinary closeness with Indian military and the international clout India enjoys, he is in a position to quash internal dissent, take Hindutva to its logical end, make India shining again and push his way through to make India an unchallenged hegemonic power of South Asia as well as Afghanistan.
Modi has already indicated his preferences with regards to India’s relations with Pakistan. Meeting between Modi and Nawaz was held on 27th May 2014 in New Delhi on the occasion of former’s oath taking ceremony in a friendly atmosphere but wolfish Modi adorned in sheep’s skin set the ball rolling by coming out with old complaints which was in bad taste and highly disagreeable. He ignored that it was a ceremonial occasion and seemed least impressed with fawning and appeasing demeanor of his guest and release of 150 Indian fishermen prisoners as a goodwill gesture. Setting aside the contours of etiquettes which the occasion demanded, he put Nawaz on the defensive by blurting out same old demands related to terrorism.
He dug out the five and half year old Mumbai issue. For him, terrorism in Indian occupied Kashmir and in India were important and all other disputes inconsequential. He squarely put the blame of terrorism at the doorsteps of Pakistan. He cunningly advised Nawaz that his dream of friendship with India can come true only if Pakistan desists from the practice of cross border terrorism into India and as a starter he should speed up the trial and punishment of Mumbai culprits. In short, he held Pakistan responsible for Indo-Pak tension and terrorism. His complaints cum demands were akin to American hateful ‘do more’ mantra. Nawaz patiently listened to the complaints, and considered it prudent not to spoil the mood of his host by countering his grumbling by putting forward Pakistan’s genuine complaints.
Modi was however quite satisfied to see his guest listening to his sermon intently and not even whimpering in protest. He must have been surprised to see Nawaz tongue-tied in the backdrop of Pakistan possessing bagful of evidence of India’s proxy war in Pakistan and Indian officials’ disclosures that all the acts of terror in India from 2001 to 2008 were not carried out by Pakistan as had been alleged but by Hindu terror groups aided by Indian military intelligence. Modi and not Nawaz should have been on the defensive. Even bumbling Yusaf Raza Gilani showed greater courage at his meeting with Manmohan at Sharm-el Sheikh by showing him evidence of RAW’s involvement in Balochistan and putting him in an awkward position. Nawaz was either overawed or he was too conscious not to ruffle the feathers of his host. He probably thought that Modi’s behavior will be similar to Vajpayee when he visited Lahore in February 1999, not realizing that chemistry and background of the two is quite different.
Nawaz was not required to indulge in a shouting match, but he should have conveyed Pakistan’s concerns subtly using diplomatic language. Probably his passion to open up two-way trade relations with India at all costs made him over cautious. He remained in the same appeasement mode when he addressed the press conference and didn’t deem it proper to make a mention of Kashmir, or to meet the Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders. He might have pleased his host and the Indians but he displeased Pakistanis and the Kashmiris for failing to remind Modi that Pakistan is the worst victim of terrorism and the biggest source of terrorism in Pakistan is RAW whose footprints can be seen in all the trouble spots, particularly in FATA, Balochistan and Karachi.
He should have told Modi that while law courts in Pakistan had made progress with regard to Mumbai suspects, no headway had been made on the culprits involved in Samjhota Express train in 2007 in which 50 Pakistanis were burnt to death. He should have reminded Modi that Kashmir and not terrorism is the main bone of contention, and that terrorism is the by-product of unresolved Kashmir issue. Emboldened by Nawaz’s docility, Indian external affairs secretary’s sordidly stated that India’s position on Kashmir is clear and needed no further elaboration.
Modi will play ball with Nawaz if he behaves docilely, puts Kashmir case in a cold freezer, agrees to convert LoC into permanent border, agrees to two-way trade with India without insisting on trade balance/removing business inequities, open up Wagah border for transportation of Indian goods to Afghanistan and Central Asia, stops raising objections on Indian presence in Afghanistan and to the construction of dams in occupied Kashmir, desist from aiding Afghan Taliban from recapturing power in Afghanistan, continues to fight and subdue Kashmiri Jihadis/ anti-India militants and agrees to rein in ISI/Army.
In case Pakistan decides to move forward the composite dialogue based on equality, insists upon resolution of core disputes, and strives to safeguard national interests and to uphold its dignity and honor, it will be seen by India as a confrontational approach impinging upon India’s future grandiose plans. Defiant Pakistan has never been to the liking of Indian leaders whether belonging to Congress or BJP.
Nationalist Modi in particular will be most displeased and will hasten to exploit the vulnerabilities of Pakistan and force it to dance to his tunes. He will derive pleasure in applying a mix of coercive diplomacy/propaganda war through media/Indian embassies abroad, economic intimidation through water terrorism, and military coercion through covert operations/heating up of LoC. Simultaneously, his spin masters would continue with their efforts to isolate Pakistan by widening the gulf between all its neighbors as well as SAARC members and USA. Modi’s team will work hard to create misgivings between China and Pakistan and also to convince Russia not to provide military equipment to Pakistan. India will strive to keep the pot of militancy in FATA and Balochistan boiling and for that it would need to keep its launching pad in Afghanistan activated. Indirect strategy buttressed by vilification campaign to weaken Pakistan from within and to discredit/isolate it as is being practiced since 2002 will be a preferred option since all out war against nuclear Pakistan will be too risky and very costly.
Enhanced cooperation between China, Russia and India on one hand and growing nexus between India, Afghanistan and Iran when seen in the backdrop of existing Indo-US-Israeli nexus should worry Pakistan’s policy makers, particularly when Pakistan’s relations with India, Afghanistan and USA are tense-ridden and with Iran not-so-friendly. The situation becomes grimmer because of political and economic instability, ongoing insurgencies in FATA and Balochistan and unrest in Karachi.
In order to get out of the externally/internally woven stranglehold and make Pakistan a self-reliant State, all stakeholders in Pakistan will have to shun their petty differences and selfish interests, get united to provide full support to Army’s Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan directed against anti-Pakistan foreign/local militants assisted by foreign powers and refusing to hold peace talks, support the Rangers-Police operation in Karachi to get rid of target killers/kidnappers/criminals, back the FC/Police fighting the separatists in Balochistan, hold result oriented talks with pro-peace Taliban and Baloch militants, initiate socio-economic-judicial reforms in FATA and Balochistan to address their grievances, put an end to societal ills by enacting credible system of accountability/judicial/electoral systems, carryout police reforms, focus entirely on uplifting the economic indicators of the country and improving macro/micro levels of economy, provide relief to the downtrodden and follow the golden principles of Islam. Internally strong and united Pakistan will keep India under Modi deterred.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst/columnist/historian, Director MEASAC Research Centre, member Executive Council PESS. firstname.lastname@example.org