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

WHY JIT JUNKING PATHANKOT TERROR ATTACK WILL BE A BAD IDEA FOR PAKISTAN!

What is routine in India-Pakistan ties has reportedly happened with the reports saying the Pakistan Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has refuted India’s charges and the Pathankot airbase attack, in fact, was stage managed by India to malign Pakistan in the world community.

That is on the line how Pakistan behaves and therefore has no surprise or shock value.

What was unusual, and in fact, remarkable – was Narendra Modi’s decision to engage Pakistan again after the bitterness on Pakistan High Commission’s insistence on inviting J&K separatists that rendered India-Pakistan ties hostile for months – with verbal rhetoric, escalated tension in capitals, Delhi and Islamabad, and cross-border firings.

With today’s development, that says the Pakistan’s Pathankot JIT has rubbished all Indian claims of any Pakistani hand in the Pathankot airbase attack, there are now valid questions being raised on the diplomatic coup that Narendra Modi seemed to have achieved with his unscheduled stopover at Lahore while coming back from Afghanistan on December 25 last year.

The dramatic event changed the bilateral course and the news agenda about India-Pakistan ties. Though there were developments like the National Security Advisors of both countries meeting in a third country and some meetings of officials of both countries, the way perspectives to look at things in Indo-Pak context changed, was visibly different after this visit.

Border skirmishes, if not stopped, came down significantly. Verbal rhetoric was toned down. The escalated tension between both neighbours looked giving way to a thaw towards a normalizing relation with Sushma Swaraj visiting Pakistan for a SAARC meet and talks of Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Advisor, coming to India to take forward the Indo-Pak dialogue.

And then – the Pathankot airbase attack happened – on the intervening night of January 1-2.

The terror attack that killed seven Indian security personnel and four terrorists lasted for three days. It was proved beyond doubt, with the evidence available, that the terrorists had come from Pakistan and Pakistan even showed sincerity in acting on evidence India provided – with Nawaz Sharif forming a team to probe the incident and the reported crackdown on the terror group responsible for the attack, JeM (Jaish-e-Muhammad) and its members, including JeM chief Masood Azhar though it was never officially confirmed.

That was the first clearly visible sign of Pakistan backtracking. Many flip-flops on Pathankot incident probe in Pakistan then ensued. The almost certain dates of India-Pakistan NSA level talks were postponed with India making the talks conditional with the progress made by Pakistan in the Pathankot probe. Pakistan also continued with its audacity on hosting the J&K separatists to the Pakistan High Commission.

Then came Pakistan’s proposal to send its JIT to India to see the evidence-set to further the probe. India accepted it and the Pakistan JIT team was in India for five days (March 27 to April 1) to carry out its investigation, ascertain facts, and collect evidence that was needed in the Pakistan courts.

Now that the JIT is back in Pakistan, everyone in India is desperately waiting for what comes next.

Obviously, the logical extension would be, from India’s perspective – the JIT should come with a status report that would speed-up the probe there in Pakistan.

But what about designs of all stakeholders involved?

Pakistan’s Army and ISI (a JIT member was from ISI) would never accept Pakistan’s hand and would do all to shield JeM and Masood Azhar. Civilian government of Pakistan would want to toe a more disciplined approach given the international interest and pressure. The political opposition in Pakistan would obviously take the side of the Pakistan’s Army.

In India, the first preference of everyone would be that all goes well and the Pakistan JIT carries the work ahead by expediting the probe there based on evidence India has provided. But given the Pakistan’s history of backstabbing and backtracking, the groups in India opposed to NDA, BJP and Narendra Modi would see a ‘windfall opportunity’ in catching up on any hostile development and thus the opportunity to corner the Narendra Modi government over failure of a much discussed foreign policy move, something that happened today with the alleged report that the Pakistan JIT had dubbed the Indian version a blatant lie.

For the moment, India and its agencies have done the right thing by not jumping to any conclusion. Even with Pakistan’s dubious history and credentials, we need to wait for any official version from Pakistan and must not go by whatever crap the hysterical media outlets in Pakistan report.

But, if indeed the reports coming out in the Pakistani media about the JIT report are true, then also we should not jump to any such conclusion as seeing it as some ‘impulsive foreign policy move’ by the Narendra Modi government.

Because, after Narendra Modi’s Lahore stopover and India’s permission for Pakistan JIT to visit India to see and collect evidence, Pakistan is simply not in a position to junk the Pathankot airbase attack as some stage-managed propaganda attack to malign Pakistan.

The world saw and appreciated Narendra Modi’s Lahore move. The world went to believe the use of Pakistan’s soil in orchestrating attack on Pathankot airbase. The world knows that Pakistan is home to some of the world’s most dreaded groups. The world knows how Pakistan made mockery of 26/11 probe where its non-state actors were involved. The world knows Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Pakistan. The world knows how he survived there for years – with the state’s patronage. The world knows JeM is a UN recognized terrorist group and Masood Azhar was freed (swapped) in the 1999 Kandahar hijacking incident. The world knows ISI is more involved in promoting terror groups in India than caring for incessant intelligence failures in Pakistan.

This all has made Pakistan like a failed state in the international community – a state which cannot be trusted. After all, the US did not inform Pakistan before the operation to kill Osama bin Laden fearing leaks.

The world knows how serious India has been with Pakistan, in taking the dialogue process forward, especially after Narendra Modi’s Lahore stopover and after India allowed the Pakistan JIT visit in spite of strong opposition in India.

Now any further bravado/sham will further dent Pakistan’s credibility in the International arena as the country has already lost much of its currency after Pakistan it’s exposed patronage of the terror groups including Al Qaeda, Taliban, LeT, JeM, Haqqani Network and countless others. And it should also be seen in the context of Narendra Modi’s emphasis on improving ties with the Muslim countries including Pakistan’s supporter nations like Saudi Arabia.

If Pakistan now denies use of its soil and junks the Pathankot terror attack, it will do so at its own peril. Yes, it is an altogether different issue to see if it happens so, then how India plays it out at international platforms.

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