Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Indo-Pak relations: Modi reverts to hawkish stance

Peace efforts with Pakistan have again fallen flat. The goodwill generated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s gesture of inviting his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in in May have been lost. 

True, the dispute with Pakistan became a major preoccupation of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and also the foreign policy engine room, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). 
Now, that occupational hazard has caught up with Narendra Modi, and he needs to walk the talk – either ways. India has cancelled the Foreign Secretary level talks scheduled for August 25 after Pakistani High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit openly called Kashmiri separatist leaders like Shabbir Shah for consultations ahead of scheduled talks.
Peace with Pakistan has been among the top cherished wishes of Indian diplomatic leadership. In fact, New Delhi has never hesitated from taking the first step or running the important extra mile in its efforts to establish peace with that country braving several hurdles and domestic politics.

It was this spirit which saw in the 1990s, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee making a bus trip across the border to Lahore. The similar gesture was shown more than once when Dr Manmohan Singh described his the then Pakistani counterpart Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani as a ‘man of peace’.

With the latest developments, the South Asian brotherhood juggernaut created by Prime Minister Modi when he invited all SAARC nation heads to his swearing in has also been defeated.

Close on the heels of envoy Basit’s meeting with separatist leaders as Congress and other opposition parties mounted pressure on Prime Minister Modi, India's foreign secretary Sujatha Singh on Monday summoned the Pakistani envoy and said "that Pakistan's continued efforts to interfere in India's internal affairs were unacceptable". 

"Under the present circumstances, it is felt that no useful purpose will be served" by a meeting between the two sides.

Predictably Pakistan has termed the episode unfortunate while Kashmiri separatists perhaps stunned by Ministry of External Affairs hawkish stance have been stating that even during Vajpayee regime such parleys between them (separatists) and Pakistani envoy had taken place in the past. But India has changed over last 14-15 years and especially under him, Modi would like to give the impression he will continue to call shots.

The pro-Modi government plea is powers within Pakistan did not approve of talks making progress between two Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi. None other than Modi’s trusted lieutenant and country’s Defence Minister Arun Jaitley himself has said that “powers within” Pakistan disapproved of normal ties with India.

Snapping of Secretary level talks has brought doubts whether two Prime Ministers would meet on the sidelines of any other international meet.
Doubts have also surfaced over the trade ties and thus two prominent Indian business chambers CII and FICCI have urged both the countries to allow normal trade relations continue.

When India and Pakistan signed a liberalised visa agreement on September 8, 2012, in many quarters it was seen as a fructification of efforts of the lawmakers in both sides. The new pact replaces a 38-year-old restrictive visa agreement and will pave the way for greater people to people contacts and boost trade.
 Having said so, one must take note of the fact that the sudden hardliner stance from the Modi regime did not come all of a sudden.
In fact, during his recent visit to the trouble-torn Jammu and Kashmir, PM Modi himself raised the ‘proxy war’ bogey only to embarrass the Pakistani dispensation who termed it baseless rhetoric.

Was it deliberate on the part of Modi? His detractors are linking his proxy-war rhetoric and cancellation of formal parleys to by-elections in a number of states. Well, who would know the importance of elections better other than Modi?
It goes without saying that the relations between India and Pakistan, also a close ally of neighboring China, have a major impact on regional stability and thus developments like these – cancellation of talks – generate immense international interest.
In 2002, Modi had used his rhetoric against Pakistan and ‘Mia Musharraf’ as an electoral virtue; but in 2014 he is not a mofusil leader of ‘six crore (60million) Gujratis’.

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