That Long, Old Trou­ble­some Road

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

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.

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