History does not forgive
It seems the extremist agenda of Prime Minister Modi is badly hurting India too. While lives of billions in India are miserable due to the plague of poverty, it is time for Modi to review his anti-Pakistan focus
In September 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi funnelled diplomatic ammunition besides occasional militarily offences towards Pakistan. The objective was to isolate its eastern neighbour. The strategy was named the “new normal” of India.
The hostile policy of India towards Pakistan is a manifestation of New Delhi’s frustration with its inability to control the situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir despite brute force, which caused immeasurable sufferings for Kashmiris and attracted international attention to such grave human rights violations that it could be categorised as ‘crimes against humanity.’
Since 8 July last year, in the wake of extra-judicial killing of a young Kashmiri leader, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, Indian security forces have killed over 150, critically wounded thousands including merciless blinding of hundreds with the use of pellet guns.
In its desperate attempts and as part of its strategy to isolate Pakistan, India has embarked on a military offensive on the Line of Control (LoC), boasted over its drama of ‘fake surgical strikes’, threatened with deprivation of water by diverting the flow in a blatant breach of Indus Water Treaty, initiated a hot media campaign to malign Pakistan on the pretext of terrorism, scuttled the SAARC Summit, in breach of UN Charter announced using Baloch card to destabilise Pakistan and use every opportunity to diplomatically isolate Pakistan. However, India failed to achieve any of the objectives through its tricks.
The Indian government is going ahead with the plan: occasional fireworks at the Line of Control in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the Working Boundary in Sialkot and Narowal sector without breaching the red lines.
On the diplomatic front, the Indian bid to isolate Pakistan has fallen flat on its face. Successful holding of 13th Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) Summit is a manifestation and a significant milestone in Pakistan’s foreign policy. The recent wave of terrorist incidents in Pakistan, which were timed to deter the holding of the Summit, miserably failed as five presidents, two prime ministers, two deputy premiers and a special envoy attended the moot. All unanimously endorsed the substantive outcome of the three meetings of SOM, COM and the Summit.
And it wasn’t just the ECO summit where Pakistan succeeded on the foreign policy front, but Indian attempts to malign Pakistan at the recent BRICS summit, held in Goa, backfired when the member states refused to buy the anti-Pakistan mantra of Premier Modi.
One must also recall the embarrassment India faced at the Heart of Asia in Amritsar where foreign ministers of China, Russia and Iran snubbed both PM Modi and Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani by holding separate meetings with the Pakistan’s adviser on foreign affairs. Most of the countries did not appreciate the Indian approach to vitiate the atmosphere.
China, the biggest factor of stability in the region, is the force multiplier for Pakistan’s diplomatic stimulus. At the ECO Summit, CPEC served as an example in the context of regional connectivity and provided impetus to the notion of integrating the region to the outside world through the most economical routes offered by Pakistan.
Since the launch of the multi-billion-dollar initiative, the economic impact is visible in the progressive trend registered in the macroeconomic indicators of Pakistan and the region. A discernible transformation in the economic potential of the region has become evident more than ever.
While successive reports of the international financial institutions (IFIs) have put Pakistan as a formidable economic player in the region, the attraction towards Islamabad is growing. China’s open and blunt diplomatic support towards Pakistan is an added feature.
Atul Aneja, a seasoned journalist associated with The Hindu, says China’s diplomatic support to Islamabad is a new but important feature which is adding value to Pakistan’s clout.
But Russia’s increasing interest in Pakistan is a new factor of stability which is giving sleepless nights to policymakers in New Delhi.
Two recent successive meetings held in Moscow on Afghan peace process have also reinforced the significance Pakistan holds among regional players. The initiative to involve Russia into the Afghan peace process suggests that in its bid to isolate Pakistan, India is fast losing partners.
Both Russia and Iran are courting closer relations with Pakistan. Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s two visits in quick succession and Russia’s growing cooperation with Pakistan in the fields of defence and energy with its endorsement to take Pakistan into SCO are some of the significant changes in the regional and global context and suggest that isolating Pakistan is a dream which may never come true.
The growing Pakistan-Russia coordination could be gauged by a recent incident which shook the entire diplomatic core in Islamabad.
The participants of a recently held military day reception of Russia were shocked to see Pakistan’s chief of general staff (CGS) Lt-Gen Bilal Akbar at the ceremony without any prior notice or protocol. Gen Bilal Akbar, who shot to fame after a successful paramilitary forces operation in violence-hit Karachi, perhaps came to the function to send a strong message of cordiality to Moscow.
To respond to the gesture, Russian Ambassador Alexey Yurevich Dedov made an unusual call on Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa the very next week, perhaps to express his gratitude to the army leadership for Gen Akbar’s gesture. This also reflects swelling friendly ties between the two neighbours.
Najam Rafique, the acting director-general at a local think-tank, Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), believes Premier Modi’s obsession to isolate Pakistan has yet to come to an end.
“It would not be incorrect to say that Modi’s obsession to isolate Pakistan has failed miserably in the face of Pakistan’s proactive policy of portraying the true face of his government both within the region, as well as the international community,” Najam said, adding that Pakistan has actually ‘walked the talk’ in reaching out to India both in terms of improving bilateral relations, as well as inviting the Modi government to greater regional connectivity through such projects as CPEC.
“This has been noted by the international community, and it is no wonder then that both Russia and China gave a cold shoulder to Modi’s call for isolating Pakistan at the recent BRICS Summit”.
Najam believes China, Russia and the US want to see a stable Pakistan due to its unique geographical location.
“Efforts by Russia, and the growing Chinese investments in Pakistan under CPEC, as well as US investment in energy projects in Pakistan are a clear proof of the fact that these countries remain unfazed by Modi’s vicious vitriol against Pakistan,” he says.
But Modi’s critics are not limited to Pakistan. Even Indian scholars find faults with Modiji’s isolate Pakistan strategy.
Rajen Singh Laishram, an Indian scholar with Manipur University who has a specific focus on regional issues, says that the conduct of foreign policy is different from winning election using the Hindutva game plan.
“There appears to be a wide gulf in India’s social base and proclivities for greater power status. The more India pushes for its entitlements, the more isolated it is becoming among its neighbours,” says the eminent Indian scholar.
Atul Aneja says though Premier Modi can convince the world that Pakistan poses a problem, he is finding it hard to get the message across that Pakistan is the core of international terrorism.
“For historical reasons, terrorism flourished in Pakistan following the Soviet intervention In Afghanistan. But Pakistan is no longer the epicenter of terrorism, which has shifted to SyRaq (Syria and Iraq) following the rise of ISIS,” says Atul, who is one of the few Indian journalists constantly advocating regional and trans-regional connectivity and trade in South Asia and Asia Pacific.
Moreover, India is already facing a dent in economic terms due to its opposition to CPEC. While Iran, Central Asian States, Russia, Germany, Afghanistan, Great Britain and France have expressed desire to benefit from CPEC, India is reluctant to accept Pakistan’s offer to join the multi-billion-dollar connectivity initiative.
A Pakistani army officer, Lt Gen Amir Riaz, recently made a public offer to India to join CPEC while Beijing supported the idea the very next day.
Ashiq Hussain Bhat, a Srinagar-based Kashmiri scholar, says Premier Modi fooled the Indian people by drawing them into believing that he would finish Kashmiris in a few months and Pakistan in the first year of his tenure. But Modi failed on both counts.
“Kashmiri people, in year 2016, exposed all tall claims of Modi on Kashmir. There was a time when one man in uniform with a stick in hand could drive 5,000 Kashmiris. In 2016, Kashmiris with just stones in their hands took on a million-strong heavily armed force, making them taste their sweat and blood,” he added.
Instead of frightening Kashmiris, Modi has seen Kashmiris turning into a fearless people.
“Consider this: When over 100 military personnel surround a militant in a house, Kashmiris with stones in their hands, surround the forces and then engage them in battle, and thereby hamper their action against the militants who had been surrounded. In the ensuing melee, either the militants inflict heavy casualties on the forces or they flee from the spot with the help of the common people. In 2016, 25 militants thus fled after they had been surrounded in their hideouts,” said Mr Bhat.
It seems the extremist agenda of Prime Minister Modi is badly hurting India too. While lives of billions in India are miserable due to the plague of poverty, it is time for Modi to review his anti-Pakistan focus and rather work jointly with Pakistan for the progress and prosperity of the people of the two countries.
Perhaps Modi has got a golden opportunity with an India friendly prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, at the helm in Pakistan and a game-changing economic prospect in shape of CPEC. Recently, the new army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa also made a positive statement about India, asking military men to learn from Indian army’s positive coordination with the democratic regime.
Since the isolate Pakistan strategy is quivering, India must not evade this opportunity and start a fresh dialogue with Pakistan. Else, history never forgives those who flutter when opportunity comes.