Setting the Record Straight

Pakistan and Modi’s Foreign Policy

Narendra Modi, Pakistan, India, Foreign Policy,
Atiq Durrani
Written by Atiq Durrani

Atal Bihari Vajpayee of Bharatia Janata Party (BJP) was the first Prime Minister of India from outside the Indian National Congress party, to serve a full five-year term from 1998 to 2003. Bharatia Jannata Party is the improved version of Bharatia Janata Sangh, formed in 1951 by Syama Prasad Mukherjee. BJP, being ideologically and organizationally linked to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, follow the same ideology of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism in India). BJP was formed in 1980 but it gained popularity by supporting the Ram Janam Bhomi (Ram Birth Place) movement, and by demolishing the Muslim’s historic 16th century mosque (Babri Masjid), in the northern town of Ayodhya, with the help of another Hindu extremist party Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

BJP formed a coalition government after the 1998 elections, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee was elected the Prime Minister of India. As PM of India from a Hindu extremist party, having anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan sentiments, it was expected that under the leadership of Vajpayee, the extremist groups like RSS and VHP will get strengthened in India. Similarly, it was also expected that the abyss between the two neighborly nations will increase, but despite of all the ups and down in the India-Pakistan relations during PM Vajpayee’s tenure, he succeeded to project himself as the moderate face of the Hindu nationalist BJP. It was during his tenure that Pakistan and India held a major meeting named as the Agra summit in July 2001, to resolve the long standing issues between the two countries, including Kashmir. In the same meeting both countries came quite close to solution through peace talks. Similarly Vajpayee also managed to distance himself and his party from the militant extremist groups like VHP during his tenure as PM.

After a decade long gap, Narendra Modi got the opportunity to become second prime minister of India from the Hindu extremist BJP, with an outright majority in parliament. Unlike Vajpayee however, Modi’s past is full of human rights violations, crimes and extremism against Muslims in India. He is considered to be the master mind of 2002 Indian Gujarat riots, in which hundreds of Muslims had been massacred by Hindu extremists under the supervision of security forces of the state.

Modi’s Foreign Policy

During his election campaign in 2014, Modi’s provocative anti-Pakistan speeches remained the focus in media. Through its manifesto and election campaign, BJP showed their resolve and desire to reboot and reorient the foreign policy of India by giving tough time to Pakistan, and maintaining friendly relations with Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which clearly shows that the objective of the manifesto is to isolate Pakistan in the region. The election manifesto of BJP also shows that it will maintain the stance that Kashmir is an integral part of the Union of India.

Through its manifesto and election campaign, BJP showed their resolve and desire to reboot and reorient the foreign policy of India by giving tough time to Pakistan, and maintaining friendly relations with Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which clearly shows that the objective of the manifesto is to isolate Pakistan in the region.

Shift in India’s FP became evident soon after BJP came into power, when in spite of a good will gesture from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who accepted Modi’s invitation, and participated in the swearing-in ceremony, India called off talks between foreign secretaries scheduled to be held in Islamabad at that time, because of the routine meeting between Pakistan’s high commissioner to New Delhi, and Kashmiri leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Shabir Shah in New Delhi. This was a shouting evidence of the BJP government’s intentions regarding Kashmir.

Introducing Doval

Modi appointed Ajit Kumar Doval – the ex-Intelligence bureau chief as National Security Advisor of India. Doval is the founding member of the Vivekananda International Foundation – a group of right-wing Hindu nationalist ‘commentators’ with close ties to the RSS and RAW, who are masked as a think-tank. He also served in Kashmir in 90s where he used his expertise in blackmail, bribery and intimidation to convert a small group of insurgents into counter-insurgents.

When Pakistan’s Military started operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorists in its western tribal areas ordering Afghanistan, India started heavy artillery cross border firing on LOC (Line of Control), claiming more than 30 lives, injuring at least 50 and up to 20,000 were displaced.

Such appointments confirm that Modi’s anti-Pakistan agenda is not just limited to his elections campaign speeches, and thus sitting at the helm of affairs, with an anti-Pakistan team serving at the desk of National Security, Modi started his election campaign in Kashmir.

Kashmir Policy

After sweeping a clear majority in the general elections, BJP’s next target was Jammu & Kashmir elections but unfortunately for Modi’s government, the BJP was not able to obtain a clear majority, and after several delays, the BJP formed a government in J&K in coalition with PDP (Peoples Democratic Party).

Modi’s government started a re-settlement policy in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Plan was to resettle thousands of Hindus who had fled Kashmir in 1989 riots, in three new heavily guarded townships, but Kashmiris, including Muslims, Hindus and Pundits did not accept the plan, and Kashmir region erupted in protest against it. Mohammed Yasin Malik, leader of a political party in Kashmir, likened the proposed townships to Israeli-style settlements, saying India should not be authorized “to turn Kashmir into another Palestine”. In clashes between protesters and law enforcement agencies, hundreds were injured and at least one was killed, which resulted in a series of further protests and strikes called by Kashmiri leaders.

When Pakistan’s Military started operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorists in its western tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, India started heavy artillery cross border firing on LOC (Line of Control), claiming more than 30 lives, injuring at least 50 and up to 20,000 were displaced

On the other hand, when Pakistan’s Military started operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorists in its western tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, India started heavy artillery cross border firing on LOC (Line of Control), claiming more than 30 lives, injuring at least 50 and up to 20,000 were displaced. These incidents of unprovoked hostility were ironic and eye opening for strategists sitting in Pakistan, who could not view it as a mere co-incidence.

Visits of Regional Countries

Prime Minister Modi made frequent visits to regional countries in the period of last one year, including Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and China, but not a single visit to Pakistan. However, during most of his visits, Pakistan remained the favorite topic of discussion. Little positive gestures for Pakistan were observed during his visits to different states.

China, India and Pakistan at Cross Roads

In April-2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a $46 billion economic package deal with Pakistan, inclusive of a 3,000-km corridor from Gwadar to Kashgar that passes thru all the provinces of Pakistan including Gilgit-Baltistan. During his visit to China in May -2015, Prime Minister Modi openly expressed Indian concerns over China-Pak Economic Corridor, and termed the project as “unacceptable”. Indian ambassador in Beijing also raised this issue. At an occasion, pointing towards China-Pakistan relationship, Modi said that “we must ensure that our relationships with other countries do not become a source of concern for each other”. China defended the project by saying that it holds the CPEC and its proposed route in high esteem, while at the same time hitting at India for its oil exploration bid in South China Sea, which is disputed area between China and India.

In the first week of July this year, China blocked India’s bid for UN to seek action against Pakistan after the bail of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi in Pakistani courts. Talking to journalists, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said that their stand was based on facts, and in the spirit of objectiveness and fairness.

During his visit to China in May -2015, Prime Minister Modi openly expressed Indian concerns over China-Pak Economic Corridor, and termed the project as “unacceptable”

Similarly during Modi’s visit to Bangladesh he kept targeting Pakistan. He accused Pakistan of creating “nuisance” and “constantly troubling India” by promoting terrorism. While addressing the students, PM Modi admitted that India played a part in the break-up of Pakistan in the 1971 War.

Pakistan’s Policy Moves

By accepting Modi’s invitation, PM Nawaz Sharif’s government, set a friendly tone of relations with India, which was soon shattered by the Indian cancellation of Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary talks in Islamabad. Despite PM Nawaz Sharif’s initiative of goodwill, the cancellation of these talks resulted in a show of cold shoulder by both premiers for each other on different occasions. Adviser to PM on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said on several occasions that Pakistan desires to resume dialogue with India but it will not hold dialogue on terms set by India alone.

Indian border ceasefire violations were replied with same intensity by Pakistani Rangers at LoC. Pakistan also denied visa to Kashmir PDP (People’s Democratic Party) spokesman Naeem Akhtar, due to the assertion that PDP is not the real political representative of Kashmiri people. Similarly foreign office of Pakistan showed concern over Indian plans to establish new Hindu settlements in occupied Kashmir, stating that altering the demographic composition of Jammu and Kashmir is in violation of UN Security Council resolution.

After several provocative anti-Pakistan statements by Indian government representatives, border violations at LoC, Pakistan finding evidence of Indian involvement in terrorism activities in Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister’s statements in Bangladesh, and last but not the least BBC’s report on the Indian intelligence agency’s funding and training of militants of a certain political party, Pakistan decided to raise the issue of India’s interference in internal affairs of Pakistan in United Nations. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry stated that interference in internal affairs of any country was a violation of principles of the UN Charter and that it was also against the norms of interstate relations and conduct.

After several provocative anti-Pakistan statements by Indian government representatives, border violations at LoC, Pakistan finding evidence of Indian involvement in terrorism activities in Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister’s statements in Bangladesh, and last but not the least BBC’s report on the Indian intelligence agency’s funding and training of militants of a certain political party, Pakistan decided to raise the issue of India’s interference in internal affairs of Pakistan in United Nations.

The pressure maintained by the government of Pakistan during last one year finally paid off into resumption of talks by the Indian government. Indian Prime Minister greeted his counterpart at the start of holy month of Ramadan over phone; later Indian government requested a meeting with Nawaz Sharif at Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Ufa, Russia.

Conclusion

India has been playing these hide and seek games since 1948, but it has yet to learn that solution to most India-Pakistan problems lies in sincerely pursuing talks on core bilateral issues. Modi’s approach towards resolving issues with Pakistan is different from Vajpayee in that he tried to dominate, and pressurize Pakistan to start talks on Indian terms, which is unacceptable to any sovereign nation. At times Pakistan has provided India leverage by initiating talks or stepping back on some issues for the sake of goodwill, but at the same time has always stood firm on core issues and their solutions.

Vajpayee and Musharraf made a colossal progress on this issue during the Agra summit when both were close to issue a joint statement on the resolution of Kashmir dispute but the negotiations collapsed at the last moment.

The core issue between India and Pakistan is Kashmir. Vajpayee and Musharraf made a colossal progress on this issue during the Agra summit when both were close to issue a joint statement on the resolution of Kashmir dispute but the negotiations collapsed at the last moment. Although the negotiations failed at that time but a small ray of hope had been generated that convinced the governments and the people of both countries that the issues are not endless, and can be resolved through sincere negotiations and Confidence Building Measures (CBM).

To keep Modi interested in the resolution of bilateral issues it is essential for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to maintain the pressure generated by the government of Pakistan in last one year. PM Modi’s foreign policy has not been able to achieve its objectives whereas Pakistan has been able to maintain friendly relations with our neighbors, in fact, improved its relations with Afghanistan, China, Russia and Iran. Kashmir issue has been raised at different forums like SAARC and OIC, whereby Pakistan succeeded to attract the attention of International Organizations. India has agreed for now to sit and talk on bilateral issues but in order to reap the fruits, a consistent effort is required on both ends.

PM Modi’s foreign policy has not been able to achieve its objectives whereas Pakistan has been able to maintain friendly relations with our neighbors, in fact, improved its relations with Afghanistan, China, Russia and Iran.

Absence of Pakistani media during the recent Modi-Nawaz meeting, and the joint statement at Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Ufa, Russia, failed to reflect Pakistan’s principle concerns as effectively as those of India. Kashmir issue was not specifically mentioned in the joint statement, which was not only criticized inside Pakistan but also hurt the sentiments of Kashmiri political leadership. Such sluggishness can result into long term damages for Pakistan. Pakistan needs to shift its efforts from a tactical level to a long term strategic one, and improve its diplomatic skills; only then one can hope to achieve sustainable peace while keeping intact the national interests of Pakistan.

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Atiq Durrani

Atiq Durrani

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