So, India has two options with Pakistan. Go to War or Initiate Dialogue. War is not an option as both are nuclear states so diplomacy is the only way forward. And this visit needs to be seen in that context only.
The visit was indeed surprising but it was not unplanned or undertaken at short notice. It was planned well in advance but not announced to avoid media speculation and creation of unnecessary hype which has ruined the past initiatives taken by the Modi Government on the Pakistan front.
This is the plane on which the Prime Minister traveled to Moscow.
And this is the plane on which he came back and went to Kabul and Lahore.
The difference between the two planes is that the latter is operated by Indian Air Force and has advanced security measures which is unavailable in the first. So, they knew they were going to travel to troubled lands. Apart from that, the Pakistan High Commissioner to India went to Pakistan a week back to prepare the ground for the meet. Also, the Air Traffic Control in Lahore was told about this trip on thursday itself.
Now the visit:
After the failure of bilateral talks at Foreign Secretary level and the proposed NSA meet after Ufa talks due to pressure created as a result of intense media speculation, PM had understood that discreet is the only way forward.
A pull aside impromptu meeting in Paris, followed by NSAs meeting in Bangkok and then EAM Swaraj visiting Pakistan on the pretext of Heart of Asia Conference culminated into the resumption of comprehensive bilateral dialogue. A visit by the Indian Prime Minister clearly shows diplomatic offensive and the intent with which Modi has pursued his Pakistan policy recently. The Indian PM trusted Nawaz Sharif with his security and traveled in a Pakistani chopper. That’s for me the biggest confidence building measure India has undertaken with respect to Pakistan till date.
When PM had visited INS Vikramaditya for the Commander’s Conference, he had remarked that we are engaging with Pakistan to try and turn the course of history. That was the boldest statement by Modi on Pakistan till date. And it had been followed with the visit now.
The way ahead:
Have our concerns been addressed? Clearly NO.
So what should be the way forward: India should restart the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue with Pakistan with a positive note but at the same time we shouldn’t be complacent and must prepare ourselves for any Pakistan misadventure. The need is to increase Intelligence and Army Strength at the border to prevent any terrorist attacks and subsequent derailment of talks.
The civilian Government in Pakistan is facing same legitimacy issues like the Ghani Government in Afghanistan. Taliban is the culprit in Afghanistan and the Pakistan Army in Pakistan. India can do little to alter the situation. But this gesture by the PM has been appreciated by everyone except, of course, the Congress Party.
Has Modi ignored national concerns: A day back Prime Minister was in Russia negotiating S-400 air defence missile systems and submarines and frigates. Soon, these agreements will see the light of the day. After that Modi visited Afghanistan where India has offered 4 Mi-25 attack helicopters to Afghanistan to fight Taliban. So. clearly national security and strategic issues remain his top priorities. And the Pakistan visit should be seen in that context only.
A hectic day for the Prime Minister but very fruitful for India-Pakistan relations. Let’s be optimistic and alert. We need to anticipate how Pakistan will reciprocate the gesture. But Prime Minister Modi has surely made serious efforts to re-initiate the dialogue process and needs to be complimented for that.
A smart move by the Prime Minister to keep out the media and make a surprise visit to Pakistan which was otherwise unthinkable.
So, is it a masterstroke?
Politically, YES. He did not have to waste any political capital as he was spared of unwanted media and opposition scrutiny prior to the visit.
Diplomatically, well lets wait for sometime to know the true outcome.