Deciphering Narendra Modi government’s Pakistan Policy
In an interview on Aap Ki Adalat in 2009, the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had said “Pakistan ko usi ki bhasha mei jawaab dena chahiye aur yeh ‘love letter’ likhna band karna chahiye” (Pakistan has to be answered in a language it understands. No point writing these ‘love letters’).
5 years after saying this ‘what Indians want to hear line’, he became the Prime Minister. Since then, he has been alleged to have taken a u-turn on what he said in 2009. Has he indeed, or has he not? How easy it is to answer this question? Lets look at few things:
First and foremost , it is ‘comparatively’ easier to judge foreign policy with respect to any country where there is only one central authority in the concerned country – its central government. Because in countries with a single central authority, the talks are only with that authority. While the content of the talks may not be immediately made public, the results [joint statements, treaties and pacts, etc.] are usually there for the public to see.
For instance, the results of talks with countries like Japan or U.S. can be known from the stands they take with respect to India or the deals that they sign with India. Because there, the central governments usually have the authority to take those stands and sign those treaties, with the legislative arms of those governments [Parliaments or similar bodies] ratifying the treaties.
But the same is not the case with Pakistan. Here, the civilian government lacks the authority to take decisions. The real authority lies with the army. Hence if you want to get things done, army is the authority to talk to. Usually these talks, if they happen, will be unofficial and secret in nature, and hence the public will never know about them, unless someone involved with the talks writes a book on them maybe a generation or generations later.
Second, we need to take notice of one unusual phenomenon. That phenomenon is – no ceasefire violation has taken place since November 2, 2015. From that date , till July 7, 2016 [the date of writing this post], it is 8 months and 5 days.
How is this possible, if one sees how bloody the 2013-2015 period was? Is it just a coincidence or is it an achievement of some secret talks with Pakistan army? It is difficult to find answers to this questions, hence it is equally difficult to judge Pakistan policy of Modi government.
Another question ,though may sound silly to mind is – could Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif be exercising some authority on, or rather some deal with army? Because army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif needs his consent for extension of tenure? If true, then does Nawaz Sharif have some role in the absence of ceasefire violations over the past 8 months?
Once again, these questions will be difficult to answer for now.
Third, there has been a regime change in the civilian government – in 2009, when Modi gave the answer mentioned at the beginning of the blog, Asif Ali Zardari was the Pakistan President and Yousaf Raza Gilani was the Prime Minister. Now these chairs are occupied by Mamnoon Hussain and Nawaz Sharif respectively.
One cannot deny the fact that Nawaz Sharif hates the Pakistan Army. After all, it was Pakistan army led by Gen. Pervez Musharraf who outsted Nawaz Sharif from power in 1999. Thus Nawaz Sharif has his interests in weakening the grip of Pakistan army.
Could this be the reason behind Modi’s outreach and building of personal rapport with Nawaz Sharif ? Could Modi be trying to strengthen Nawaz Sharif by supporting him?
Again difficult answers to find out.
Even though these questions maybe funny, but the ceasefire maintenance for 8 months is impossible to overlook.
Fourth, it is true that stoppage of ceasefire violation doesn’t mean stoppage of cross border terrorism. But earlier , ceasefire was violated to give cover to the infiltrating militants. Now, at least one menace of the two has stopped/has been stopped – at least for now.
A question which the reader may ask is, would I have raised the same questions if it was Manmohan Singh instead of Narendra Modi?
Well, since most of terrorism in India has its source in Pakistan, Indian govt’s policies on Pakistan and terrorism can seldom be separated. The Narendra Modi government has been giving free hand to our various security agencies to destroy the networks of terrorist groups in India. Also it has not done anything that would harm the cause of security agencies of India. The opposite seems to be true in case of Manmohan Singh government.
This I am saying over years of reading on how and why terrorist attacks succeed in India. I have read a very nicely written book on the 26/11 terrorist strikes. With my readings , I can conclude that Manmohan Singh did not do everything it required to deal with terrorism.
Consider this : 1 of the first things which Manmohan government did in 2004 was to remove the Prevention Of Terrorism Act [POTA], under the pretext of it being “anti-minority”, which it was not. Also, in 2010, Manmohan government released 25 Pakistani terrorists for FREE as a goodwill gesture. These terrorists included the mastermind of the recent Pathankot attack. The Ishrat Jahan affidavit fiasco is also well known now.
Also, it is a fact that the Indian army and BSF had orders of ‘restricted’ retaliation in case of ceasefire violations by Pakistan under Manmohan government, which have now been changed to ‘massive’ retaliation under Modi government. The jawans are now free to retaliate as and when they consider necessary.
Thus, when Manmohan government was deliberately taking all the wrong domestic steps to deal with terrorism, it is unlikely that it will try to do something in Pakistan which is beneficial to us. Hence, the questions I asked above do not even arise in case of Manmohan Singh government talking to Pakistan.
Now coming back to the topic, like I said earlier, a lot of questions remain unanswered, and will remain unanswered over a long period of time. What will be the result of all this activity, one does not know. But the ceasefire along the border and LOC points out that there is much more going on than what appears to the naked eye.
This only means that PM Narendra Modi’s Pakistan Policy is difficult to judge as lots of things are unclear. It will take time for things to get clear, providing us the opportunity to judge the policy.