HOW MODI’S PAKISTAN POLICY CHANGED SINCE HIS FIRST INDEPENDENCE DAY SPEECH

The article originally appeared on DailyO.

“I went to Bhutan, Nepal; all the dignitaries from SAARC countries took part in oath-taking ceremony; this marked a good beginning. This will definitely yield good results, it is my belief and this thinking of India, in the country and the world, that we want to do well to the countrymen and be useful for the welfare of the world, India wants such a hand to be extended (sic). We are trying to move forward with these dreams to achieve them.”

This is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said about his foreign policy priorities while delivering his first Independence Day speech on August 15, 2014. The words clearly told of a foreign policy vision that was taking shape and the thought of taking along your immediate neighbourhood seemed the immediate concern.

And when we talk about India’s foreign policy in its immediate neighbourhood, the first thought obviously goes to Pakistan with whom we have had a relation of more lows and very few highs since our independence in 1947.

So when Modi invited Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, along with other SAARC leaders to his oath taking ceremony on May 26, 2014 and Sharif warmly responded to it, bypassing any chance meeting with Kashmir’s separatist leaders, Modi received almost universal praise for his bold initiative to write a new script in India-Pakistan ties.

Modi certainly thought to give dialogue with Pakistan another chance under his charge in spite of the track record of Pakistan’s backstabbing.

The initiative seemed to work and a personal rapport developed between Modi and Sharif. There were exchanges of mangoes, sarees and talks between officials. It seemed some breakthrough development was in the offing.

Though there were many letdowns like ceasefire violaThat was the case till the Pathankot terror attack in January, 2016. He did not mention his SAARC initiative and his policy on India’s immediate neighbourhood and Pakistan in his second Independence Day speech from the Red Fort on August 15, 2015.

He committed a foreign policy coup with an unscheduled visit to Lahore to meet and greet Sharif on his birthday on December 25, 2016.

It was appreciated by the policymakers the world over as an innovative approach to take on the lingering coldness and hostility in India-Pakistan ties. And even after the Pathankot attack, this warm gesture continued as reflected in the easy access given to the probe team from Pakistan that had come to India to verify the “Indian allegations” that Maulana Masood Azhar and the Jaish-e-Mohammed were behind the attack.tions, cross-border firings, Pakistan’s high commissioner Abdul Basit’s insistence on meeting with the Kashmir separatists, and the rants on Kashmir by different Pakistani leaders, itBut things started deteriorating after it. There were conflicting reports that Pakistan had dismissed the evidence given by India. Though it has never officially been confirmed, we can say it is going to be yet another sham like the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks probe in Pakistan.

Pakistan has not responded to India’s requests to allow its probe team to visit Pakistan. The neighbouring country, in fact, has never sounded serious about probing the incident. On the issue of India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Pakistan, along with China, brought together a group of countries that scuttled India’s chances.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has again ratcheted up its Kashmir-rant, especially after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter. Much to India’s (and Modi’s disappointment), Sharif and Pakistan have declared Burhan a martyr and funeral processions are being held there.

And like never before, wanted terrorists like Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin are dictating terms, threatening India openly of dire consequences. It all, it seems, has made Modi uncomfortable enough to finally abandon his Pakistan policy that he had initiated two years back. It seems he has finally run out of patience. After two years of that initiative, we can now say that Modi’s efforts have proved futile.

Its first indications were seen when Modi justified his Pakistan policy by saying that owing to his efforts to reach out, the world was now clearly seeing through Pakistan’s sham and Pakistan was finding it hard to justify its stand on global platforms.

And on Monday (August 15), it became clearly visible when Modi took on Pakistan left, right and centre in his third Independence Day speech. During his over-90 minute speech on Monday, Modi connected threads to his first Independence Day speech by saying that he had proposed a common vision for India and its neighbours to unite and fight together the common enemy of poverty.

He clearly named Pakistan on Monday and detailed on how it promotes terrorism and how the world is now seeing through its tactics. He drew effective parallels with India’s sensitive response on the terror strike on the Army school in Peshawar in December 2014 and on Pakistan’s backstabbing, and doublespeak on promoting terror and fuelling unrest in Jammu and Kashmir.

How detached Modi has become from his Pakistan policy that he had envisioned in May 2014 becomes clear from the fact that he is now trying to put the ball in Pakistan’s court by talking openly on Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and Balochistan as he did on Sunday (August 14) and Monday.

On Sunday, during an all party meet on Jammu and Kashmir, he said, “Now the time has come that Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against the people in Balochistan and PoK.”

On Monday again, during his Independence Day address, he very categorically mentioned Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, thanking their people to reach out to India against Pakistan’s atrocities. This stand has come after two years of trial and error and we can say it is now going to define Modi’s Pakistan policy. seemed Modi was still hopeful. He never sounded overtly critical of Pakistan and used his words carefully even if his silence on Pakistan sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India became a national talking point.

©SantoshChaubey

THE PECULIAR ROUTINES OF ‘OUR INDEPENDENCE DAY’

Festivities of national fervour that now have become over a fortnight long kaleidoscope grip the whole nation. And it has always had a top down orientation – from the government/administration to the public. Tomorrow, on our 70th Independence Day, prime minister Narendra Modi will deliver his third address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort. As the tradition goes, President Pranab Mukherjee addressed the nation this evening on the Independence Day eve.

Every government dispensation, from ministries to government institutions to educational institutions, all are coloured in shades of the tricolour – in letter and spirit (irrespective of its source). What is new with this NDA government is that is trying many new things, looking to revive the tales of nationalism which existed only as the subjects of school text books so far. So, that is a welcome step in that sense.

As the whole nation bathes in the tricolours of the Independence, there is a rush to cash the sentiments on, as happens every year. As happens, even our Independence Day has graduated to the scale where it has become a truly social event. While being a landmark day for us to revisit our freedom struggle and pay tributes to our nation liberators and builders, it is now also an extended occasion to enjoy some quality free time with family and friends. Add to it the marketing inventions. Every operator/vendor, from electronics/consumer durables industry to FMCG companies, is busy in extending ‘bumper discount offers’. With aviation boom in India, every carrier is shelling out cheaper air tickets than trains. Hotels and restaurants come up with customized menu for the occasion.

Restive parts of the country, i.e., Jammu & Kashmir and Naxalism/Maoist insurgency hit areas, see regular diktats appealing people to observe black day on the day. In the latest addition to the government’s crackdown measures, now internet and telephone services are halted to prevent rumour mongering, something on which these separatists/insurgents/scavengers thrive. The regular exercise is to detain the major separatist leaders of J&K and to heighten the security apparatus of the nation to the maximum level to keep in check the terror designs.

Another regular feature of the Independence fortnight is the ‘war of words’ between India and Pakistan and the situation is really tense this time. Prime minister Narendra Modi, who so far had taken the initiative to normalize relations with Pakistan with unscheduled messages and visits, didn’t tweet to congratulate his Pakistani counterpart today (Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day on August 14). As Modi rightly stated yesterday that any outstanding point on Kashmir between India and Pakistan is PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir), the atmosphere is going to vitiate further. And an increased Indian focus on Pakistan’s atrocities in Balochistan would only add to it. An indication was seen in Abdul Basit’s response, Pakistani High Commissioner to India, who said that the theme to this year’s Pakistan’s Independence Day would focus on Kashmir’s freedom.

©SantoshChaubey

WHY WE SHOULD CELEBRATE OUR INDEPENDENCE DAY

It is because we can freely raise such questions based on this proposition.

It is because we have freedom to express so and ask uncomfortable questions that drag our society back – questions that are still holding us back in a dock of antiquated moratoriums on many issues so vital to us – even after 68 years of getting Independence as a sovereign state.

It is because we have freedom to seek answers to such questions.

Yes, the freedom that we have is relative, but then where it is not?

Every August 15 for India is an event to look back on, to reflect on the journey so far – a journey that began for us on August 15, 1947.

The days is and should be like a profit and loss assessment – on how we dealt with the last year – and on how it fits into the aspirations of a nation that began its independent journey 68 years ago – promises that we made and questions that we raised on August 15, 2014, when we celebrated the 68th Independence Day – and on August 15, 2015, when we are celebrating our 69th Independence Day.

We should celebrate the Independence Day because we have the Constitutional sanction to look at it in this way – an analysis to take stock of what we have done, where we are and what we need to do go where we want to go.

Yes, the day is as much a cause of celebration as it is a reason for critical observation of the sanctity of the pledge that is weaved around us and our souls will always remain in eternal debt of that – a pledge that was taken 68 years ago – a pledge that every Indian of every generation – this, past and future – is answerable to – to shape this land as per the visions of the framers of our Constitution – framers who gave the world’s its largest democracy within three years of India’s independence.

Yes, there are factors in our democracy that push us backward and we cannot deny the fact that they are a major force. It rightly makes us question the system and its numerous flaws and we all must be serious watchers of such flaws and must raise voice and think of ways to go beyond the noise.

Our independence and it being within a democratic framework of a sovereign state gives us means and platforms to exercise our rights in a free Constitutional space.

Our independence in the world’s largest democracy, in fact the world’s largest functional democracy (see the spate of bloggers killed in Bangladesh for raising their voices) makes us part of a system where there are supportive voices as well, if there are hostile elements with their fangs to silence us.

15th August is an event, an occasion to renew the pledge to work against the flaws of our democracy.

Times are changing – and changing fast. Information access and the resultant chaos have the potential to lead the voice of change to have it an upper hand than those who see their benefit in promoting the status-quo.

We should celebrate our Independence Day because we all are stakeholders in the process that makes our democracy a reason to fight for.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

INDEPENDENCE, THE MOST TREASURED VALUE

My reflections on life – in quotes

“Independence is the most treasured of the values of life..
..of your identity.
Do care for it. Love it. Live it. Stay free. Be liberated.
Be You.”

Independence, The Most Cherished Value

INDEPENDENCE, THE MOST TREASURED VALUE

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/