Modi, Instead of Extending Olive Branch, Should Isolate Pakistan Globally to Resolve Stand-off
PM Narendra Modi with Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif
History is a saga of surprises. The plain-speaking PM Narendra Modi has never been referred to as a diplomat. His meeting, however, with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Ufa, Russia, brought out a hitherto hidden aspect of his personality. Contrary to his usually loquacious self during confabulations with foreign leaders, he hardly spoke a word before or after his awkward assignation with his counterpart. Modi didn’t move an inch from his designated place to welcome Sharif, who had to walk over 50 steps forward for a handshake. At the end of an elastically hour-long rehearsed dialogue, Modi revealed himself as a polished diplomat who could tell someone to go to hell in such a manner that the person would actually look forward to the trip. Only time will tell if Sharif has walked into a trap laid by Modi or not, but it is evident that the Indian PM has changed the terms of engagement with Pakistan.
South Block mandarins wouldn’t relish the concept of a former Indian police officer and a Pakistani economist discussing the contours of the Indo-Pak relationship. The envoy class has so far been living under the illusion that international relations and dialogue was their monopoly. As has been proved time and again, only generals settle disputes while diplomats are kept busy doing policy pantomimes. By proposing the resumption of a dialogue between two leaders who are non-diplomats by training and tutelage, Modi has delinked terrorism from diplomacy. It is perhaps for the first time that the National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan will set the tone and tenor of discussions between both countries. The only previous example was when Brajesh Mishra, the NSA to PM Vajpayee, held discussions with his Pakistani counterpart Tariq Aziz just before the SAARC summit in 2003. But then, Mishra was also a former diplomat and the principal secretary to the PM. Modi had opposed a soft approach towards Pakistan during his 2014 election campaign when he held the UPA government responsible for the ‘Mar Jawan, Mar Kisan’ (Die Soldier, Die Farmer) atmosphere prevailing in the country. But in Ufa, he opted for the Vajpayee line, which espoused mature magnanimity by giving peace yet another chance.
It is still unclear why and how did Modi decide to resume direct contact with Pakistan. A few days before the Ufa meeting, Javed Ashraf Qazi, a senior Pakistan minister and former ISI chief, warned India that Pakistan will not hesitate to nuke India if needed. The Pakistan army also killed two Indian soldiers along the LoC. The NDA and UPA had previously called off talks after the rising number of border violations, and the Pakistan ambassador to India inviting J&K separatists for discussions incensed New Delhi. There are no indications that Modi had any formal or informal consultations with the members of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) over meeting Sharif before leaving for Russia. Other members of the CCS such as Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley were either travelling or busy with other assignments. It is obvious that Modi took the gamble on his own. There must have been some pressing compulsions for the PM to deviate from his pre-election stance. Modi, it seems, has made a fair assessment about the impact the meeting would have on his core constituency and the opportunity it would provide the Opposition to attack him. Since NSA Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishanker were accompanying him, the PM made a unique decision. If the past record of Jaishanker is to go by, he would have pushed for a full-scale dialogue, since he has always favoured the US line on Indo-Pak. On the other hand, Doval is a hawk who has always pushed for an end to Pak-sponsored terror as a precondition for resumption of a meaningful dialogue. For Modi, the choice was between Do Nothing and Talk Everything diplomacy or following a Shame Pakistan, Secure India strategy. He voted for security.
Though the details about the terms of the NSA-level talks are yet to emerge, it is clear that Pakistan has agreed to discuss “terror in all forms”. Modi’s detractors could find fault with the government for agreeing to provide fresh evidence about the perpetrators of the 26/11 massacre because the UPA claims it had given enough proof for speeding up the trial in Pakistan. The PM may also face the ire of his supporters for not raising the issue strongly enough of prosecuting Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed—financiers and masterminds of terror attacks in India. The only ironic solace for the PM will be the support he will receive at home from those who ideologically and personally abhor Modi but adore him when they feel he thinks like them on Pakistan.
But the success of Modi’s unconventional diplomatic adventurism in Ufa is tenuously linked with Sharif’s ability and capacity to deliver on the terror front. The idea of Pakistan survives and thrives only on anti-India fervour and actions. Terrorists and fire-spewing Pak generals know well that this nefarious notion of Pakistan will die the day its leaders and citizens start breaking bread with their Indian counterparts, and cricketers of both nations start running between the wickets to the applause of excited crowds. Pakistan was born out of hatred for India. The army has controlled it for the past 60 years, with the sole objective of remaining in a state of visible and covert warfare with India. The rise of Islamist fundamentalism nourished by the Pakistan army has made it impossible for even a tiny section of moderate elements across the border to mount pressure on their government to fight the fanatics in the system. The warmongers have sabotaged and subverted every legitimate move to settle all contentious issues with India.
Modi has to remember that Pakistan has contemptuously betrayed the Indian leadership too often by aiding and abetting terror attacks on India just before and after Indian PMs initiated peace moves. It has forced three wars on us. Both countries have signed over a dozen joint statements and mutual agreements on culture, economic and educational relations. None of these have moved forward because of unabated Pakistan-sponsored terror threat to India. All the confidence-building measures (CBMs) have achieved nothing except more blood and mayhem on Indian soil.
The sadistic twist in the tale is that Pakistan has been able to reacquire international acceptability by projecting itself as a victim of homegrown terror. Despite providing sanctuary to terrorists, it has been able to wrangle financial and military equipment from the three powerful members of the UN Security Council—US, China and Russia. Modi has to realise that the solution to the subcontinental standoff doesn’t lie in succumbing to the sugar-coated opinions of the peaceniks, pseudo-secularists and lovers of lavish Pakistani hospitality. India’s success depends on his strategy to globally isolate Pakistan and convince world leaders that today’s idea of Pakistan is a danger to them as much as it is to India. The rest of the world can use it against India only at its own peril. Pakistan can sow satanic seeds of an apocalypse, which can obliterate with fire more towers in New York, restaurants in Bali, media organisations in France, tube stations in London and hotels in India.
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