Time to Adopt Modi Model of Walk the Talk with Pak, Without Bending
All’s well that ends well, goes the proverb. The inverse is also true. With each new government’s debut, Indian diplomacy’s flirtation with Pakistan always begins well but ends up in bloody and bitter encounters after a few rounds of flying kisses and gregarious handshakes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his diplomatic innings spectacularly by inviting his counterpart Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony on May 26. The Pakistan delegation was not only given disproportionate media space and diplomatic attention, but the effort was also bruited about as India’s sincere desire to normalise relations with a perennially hostile neighbour. Modi was determined to erase the impression of a hawkish Right wing leader who is out to rewrite Indian boundaries with brute force. His election campaign speeches were projected as a mission to bring pugnacious Pakistan to its knees. But as PM, Modi avoided doing anything of that sort. He chose dialogue and reconciliation instead of confrontation and disengagement.
Recent border encounters, however, betray the trust the Modi establishment has placed in Pakistani political leadership. Soon after Sharif’s return home, Pakistani troops engaged in their usual incursions, attacking innocent jawans and civilians. During the last four-six weeks, seven such incidents have taken place, killing nine security personnel. Since Nehruvian fellow travellers with vested interests in keeping the Indo-Pak issue on the boil control Indian diplomacy, they habitually try to insulate any new leadership against contrarian opinion. These professional peaceniks will try persuading the new Prime Minister to see an opportunity in sari and shawl diplomacy, thereby giving Pakistan’s democratically elected government another chance at duplicity. Modi is yet to dismantle the dialogue-for-peace lobby, which dominates South Block and the think-tanks floated and financed by it. Millions of taxpayers’ money is spent on foreign junkets for the faux-peace-vaudeville performers to visit salubrious cities for secret parleys and Michelin menus, which have yielded only more gore and blood on our borders. Most of them are even more devious than the NGOs that promote their agenda at the cost of national interest. Even the Track Two, Three and the umpteen number of channels are now coming together to sabotage any possible attempt by the PM to institute a credible nationalist mechanism to deal with Pakistan and also the US. They were spectacularly successful during the NDA regime led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The composition of these unofficial institutions holding semi-official confabulations with invisible interlocutors hasn’t changed in the past 20 years. Prime Ministers and foreign ministers have changed, but the pacifist pundits stay on, loaded with perks and pelf. They have made more foreign trips than India’s Foreign Secretaries or even the foreign ministers. A cursory look at their reports, presentations, and newspaper articles reads like the manifestos of political parties; immutable except for the first page and the cover. They conveniently ignore the harsh reality that India’s every goodwill gesture is reciprocated with either war or a terror attack. Instead of recording Pakistan’s history of betrayal, our self-appointed global peace ambassadors counsel every Prime Minister to aim for a global role by adopting soft postures. None of their reports refer to the wars fought in 1965, 1971, Kargil in 1999, the 2001 Parliament attack, and the 26/11 Mumbai massacre. They don’t see anything wrong in the inhuman killings of over 80, 000 Indian civilians and uniformed forces in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990. They see the mass exodus of Kashmiri pundits from Jammu and Kashmir as just an accidental result of peccant administration by a hawkish governor.
Though Modi has a mind of his own and can hardly be influenced by extraneous factors, it is difficult for him to forget the ignobility he faced from some foreign nations during the past 12 years. He was shunned by the Western powers, and denied visas to address meetings in America and London. Handling sensitive international relationships is Modi’s big challenge. Like his many other colleagues, Modi may not be seeking an endorsement from the American establishment or from its desi megaphones. But they have already unleashed their well-oiled machinery to influence people holding key positions in the government. Ambassadors and high commissioners of the countries, which had declared Modi a social pariah, are already hosting dinner conclaves for newly appointed ministers and new articulate MPs. They are calling on ministers and opinion-makers. Their only objective is to ensure that the Modi government doesn’t take a hard stand against Pakistan, the West’s most dependable ally and a big market for their defence industry.
But Modi is aware of his campaign promises to the people of India. His success in taming Pakistan would depend on his ability to destroy the terror camps across the border, either with cooperation from the Pakistan forces or by the Indian Army. Modi has been advised that glamorous handshakes with a leader who doesn’t have the authority to deliver on a single promise he makes to India are futile. Pakistan is controlled by four different fief-lords, each working within boundaries defined by them. If Sharif enjoys authority over civil administration, the ISI governs and nurtures Pakistan’s terror network over which the Prime Minister has no control. The Pakistani Army chief decides the contours of foreign policy. The delay in Sharif accepting Modi’s invitation was primarily because of the ISI and Pakistan Army’s delayed clearance. Top of the heinous heap is the Taliban, which is allowed to operate freely from various Pakistani cities. Unless the Taliban facilitates a favourable climate for a dialogue with India—or with Pakistan’s other neighbours—Sharif cannot leave his country or send officials to break bread with other diplomats.
Modi’s uniqueness lies in his out-of-the box thinking. On Pakistan, too, he should reject the choreographed summit meetings with Sharif and his silver-tongued Savile Row diplomats. Manmohan Singh left the office as a failure and India’s weakest Prime Minister, because he was advised to chase the Nobel Peace Prize by dancing with Pakistan. Modi has got a decisive mandate to deliver his promises through his performance on the Pakistan front. The time has come to junk the Nehruvian diplomatic model of yadda-yadda with Pakistan, and adopt the Modi model of walk the talk—that too, briskly and without bending.
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