Fahad Ali talks about a knot that refuses to untie
Uneven Trajectory Of Pak-India Relations – When Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari planned to go to attend meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) he knew he was taking an immense political risk. But it was clear that his mindset was decidedly ambivalent, an obvious outcome of the intransigence exhibited by India for consistently refusing to enter into any kind of negotiations with Pakistan. Bilawal’s highly undiplomatic, rather poisonous remark in the past about Narendra Modi that Osama bin Laden is dead but the butcher of Gujarat lives still rankled the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Mainstream Indian media were waiting to take a swipe at Pakistani foreign minister but they had little opportunity, because he did not hold a press conference with Indian media. In Pakistan the hawks in the opposition were condemning him for even attending the summit while political commentators were piling on the pressure to raise the issue of Kashmir at the multilateral forum. Though before his visit it was announced by Pakistan that it was releasing 600 Indian fishermen in a bid to earn some goodwill in India but the move faltered as the BJP government gave cold shoulder to it.
Bilawal Bhutto, however, gave interviews to two top Indian journalists where he defended Pakistan’s position on Kashmir further the BJP leadership that was of the view that at a multilateral summit, bilateral relations should not have been brought up. The Indians were even more upset when he cautioned them not to get caught up in weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point-scoring. Keeping in view the jingoistic mindset he displayed it was not surprising that all hopes for the resumption of diplomatic ties were crushed particularly when he forcefully emphasised that no meaningful normalisation will take place between the two countries unless India restored the pre-August 2019 position of Kashmir. Moreover, he condemned India for hosting a G20 meeting in Srinagar and warned that when it was held Pakistan will give such a response that will be remembered. His remarks coincided with the killing of five Indian army personnel in Kashmir’s Rajouri district giving strength to the insinuation that Pakistan would be held responsible for any militancy in Kashmir during the G20 summit.
In the current international environment, where profound feuds such the Iran-Arab enmity are on the verge of getting pacified, the animosity between Pakistan and India appears highly incongruous. It is widely known that India and Pakistan are nuclear powers with a history of conflict. Their history is interspersed with war, conflicts on issues of bilateral importance and a simmering territorial dispute over Kashmir. These conflicts have created a situation where each country expects the worst of the other. The Indo-Pak conflict carries the potential of breaking out into something serious and to avoid such a possibility it is important to develop and apply measures aimed at restoring confidence between the two countries. Instead of any chance of rapprochement, Pakistan-India ties find themselves in a tough corner where their relationship is strained, leadership is estranged and the people are aloof. Though a state of peace apparently prevails but it is extremely tentative yet no country is willing to come forward with a solution.
Pakistan and India deliberately stay away from each despite countless opportunities of ushering in a process of normalisation. Though at time leaderships of both the countries tried to bring in some semblance of normalcy yet such efforts remained incomplete. Over the period of decades, successive governments in both the countries have found it politically difficult to normalise relations. Hardened attitudes regarding the bitter and bloody past experiences of the peoples of both the countries spanning centuries related to religion, culture and identity have made it virtually impossible to come to a common ground. Pakistan wants India to acknowledge it as an equal neighbour but India has no intention of doing it. Kashmir has created a web of spite for both the countries who find it impossible to wriggle out of it. Though it did happen that some strong governments in India felt they could talk but only on their terms while in Pakistan the civil-military power play prevented the consensus on India. Meanwhile, each country has remained an indelible fixture of the other’s domestic politics with mutual accusations flying all over.
With the advent of Narendra Modi matters actually turned from bad to worse. Under Modi the BJP had devised a strategy in respect of India’s relationship with Pakistan that was deeply influenced by the extreme views of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) who Modi takes as his spiritual genesis. Modi very cleverly knit a policy that was underpinned by using India’s economic power for ensuring its hegemony in the region. This policy goes against the interest of Pakistan and objections are frequently raised but Modi exploits the situation by using his country’s economic clout. It has become clear during the nine years of Modi in power that he wants not to deal with Pakistan but to fix it. All his actions are aimed at putting Pakistan in a tight spot and his tactic in this respect is to portray his good intentions towards Pakistan yet pointing out side by side that due to civil-military discord there it was not possible to come to a common ground for normalisation.
Unfortunately, Pakistan failed to keep a grip on terrorist networks spread over the length and breadth of the country having widespread connections with their ilk in the region. Soon this loophole provided opportunities to India to blame Pakistan for spoiler of peace by using terrorists as proxies though there has been no plausible proof of such allegations. Citing this reason Modi regime completely severed links with Pakistan and refused to parley with it on any forum whether local, regional or international. Modi’s policies were given fillip in wake of America’s ignominious exit from Afghanistan for which Pakistan was blamed though it was purely its own reasons that compelled the Americans to withdraw. Taking cue from the hard-lining attitude of America towards Pakistan Modi regime shut the door on Pakistan completely citing alleged implication of Pakistan in terrorist activities.
BJP government under Modi has given the impression that it wants to deal with Pakistan on the basis of flexing its military muscle that is now rated to be stronger than Pakistan. Modi is a firm believer in employing raw power while dealing with countries of its region and India under his watch is now known to have broken out of a rationalistic and reasonable mindset and has gone on offensive. The result is that India’s ties with Pakistan have gone into virtual dormancy since 2019 when Modi government permanently altered the constitutional position of Kashmir putting Pakistan in a quandary. According to Modi’s calculus, he has successfully isolated Pakistan and he considers that withdrawing from such policy would not prove beneficial to the policies pursued by his government. In the wake of these factors it appears almost impossible for Modi regime to alter the course of its policy towards Pakistan. BJP’s policy towards Pakistan is underpinned by the motives of Hindutva with the majoritarian democratic governance system of India implementing it as much as possible. Modi’s policy is crystal clear and the upshot is that he will only agree to normalise relations with Pakistan on his own terms implying that the new realities in the region particularly the annexation of Kashmir are accepted by Pakistan. It is Modi’s take-or-leave-it approach and it may last till he is in power. The Weekender