That Long, Old Troublesome Road
India must have a nuanced policy on Pakistan It is to Narendra Modi’s credit that, post the rhetorical flourishes on the UPA’s foreign policy during campaigning, he took the first-of-its-kind initiative in inviting SAARC leaders for his swearing-in ceremony. But the trickiness of dealing with some neighbours, chiefly Pakistan, quickly became apparent. The “will he, won’t he” drama surrounding PM Nawaz Sharif ’s visit underlined the reality of multiple power centres at work in Pakistan. The timing of the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat also served as a reminder of the determination of elements within the Pakistan military establishment to scuttle any attempt at normalisation of mutual ties. So, what should the Modi regime’s response be?
Again, despite all the poll-rhetoric, it is clear that, largely, the new regime has to continue its predecessor’s policy of a judicious mix of pressure and engagement with sections of the ruling regime. The stark reality is that India has to contend with multiple power centres in Pakistan, including those who still believe in using terror as extension of strategy. The attempt must be to engage with elements who think otherwise, or to try and impress upon more willing ears the futility of pursuing such a policy and how it will continue to boomerang on Pakistan itself. Reports say Sharif resisted pressure from hardliners to accept Modi’s invitation. And, it would seem the Pakistanis are keen on inserting more meaning into the visit that a mere photo-op can provide — presumably to detract criticism from those quarters at home. There is no reason why that desire can’t be accommodated, even as India maintains that progress on ties is deeply linked to progress in the trial of the accused in the 26/11 attack and ending the exporting of terror to India. All this should happen even as India protects its legitimate interests in Afghanistan, another theatre where Pakistan is waging a proxy war against India. The aim is welcoming attempts at normalisation, while seeking to isolate inimical sections in Pakistan and being firm against terror acts. But that does sound a lot simpler than it actually is.