Home Contact Us  
   

Pakistan - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4472, 29 May 2014
 

India and its Neighbourhood

Fresh Air of Rapprochement
Shujaat Bukhari
Editor, Rising Kashmir
 

Much before he took over as the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi hit the diplomatic ground with a master stroke. He invited all the heads of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries to witness his swearing in ceremony, not only to make it a grand event after a stunning victory but also to open up a new chapter in the Indian foreign policy. Modi’s election plank was centered around good governance and development and during his campaign he didn’t give a whiff about what he thought about dealing with the neighbours. Occasional “rhetoric” vis-a-vis Pakistan in which he would often say that “talks and terror” could not go together was the only reference that came in TV interviews.

But the way he reached out to all SAARC countries and particularly the bitter neighbour – Pakistan, it surprised not only his critics but also his own party men who would have “hoped” to see a more belligerent Modi. Not only have been the relations on edge with Pakistan, but New Delhi has not been doing well with Bangladesh and even with Sri Lanka. For inviting Sri Lankan president Rajapakse to the swearing in ceremony, AIDMK, the powerful ruling party in Southern state of Tamil Nadu boycotted Modi’s oath ceremony; so did the main opposition in the state— the DMK. Interestingly there was no opposition to Modi’s gesture to invite Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, albeit with a mild reaction from Congress. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s absence was significant though she was represented by the Speaker and had plans to travel to Japan.

Though Prime Minister Modi held brief and customary bilateral meetings with all the heads of SAARC countries, the focus, however, was on his meeting with Prime Minister Sharif. Nothing much could have been expected from the meeting but both the PMs, who come from completely diverse backgrounds and understanding, at least knowing each other is the positive beginning. In last 10 years the Indian Prime Minister could not take up a single visit to Pakistan and for six years there has been a deadlock in bilateral dialogue, though with intermittent meetings here and there. Both New Delhi and Islamabad have reached near some significant agreements such as liberal visa regime and stronger trade and economic ties, and likewise the Pakistan cabinet has given nod to Most Favoured Nation status to India but awaits a formal announcement. These measures have not been formalized as it was none other than BJP that wanted Congress to “teach Pakistan a lesson”.

Now that Modi has apparently departed from that “slogan” and reached out to Pakistan as well (in the camouflage of broader SAARC idea), the process could be taken forward. In 2010, Dr Manmohan Singh gave an impression that he was keen to move forward with a positive approach with Pakistan but he lacked political will and even the legitimacy. Being from the minority community, he did not wield the power of being the powerful and then his tenure was dominated by blackmail by coalition politics as also hard posturing by BJP. He could not come out from the hangover of Mumbai-2008 attacks as he was pestered to make Pakistan bend on knees to punish the perpetrators of that crime. The whole process was made hostage to the results of investigation on Mumbai. Ironically, Modi could get out of the shadow of massacre in Gujarat and earn goodwill of majority of Indians who sent him to the highest office.

Nawaz’s bold step:
While Modi played a master stroke, Nawaz too did not fail in dismantling his critics, particularly a section of jingoistic media in India that he was not in control of Pakistan. Despite the fact that Pakistan army has a major say in the affairs of country, Nawaz’s decision to attend the oath ceremony was also coup by the civilian government in Pakistan. He did take Army on board in accepting the invitation but at the end of the day he wrote yet another chapter in the bilateral relations. As on today he had no reason to believe someone who comes with a hard-line background. But Nawaz also recognized the “peace overtures” of Modi and moved forward to keep with his repeated assertions that he wants peace with India. He did this in the backdrop of intense opposition from extremist groups within Pakistan, who wanted to dictate him on relations with India. Notwithstanding the fact that Kashmir remains the core issue between the two countries but to address that, an atmosphere of amity has to be created and that can only be possible when both countries start talking. For Nawaz Sharif it was a risky decision, as back home many sections will ask him “What did you get in return”? as was the case with former President General Parvez Musharraf when he returned from Agra. But this time the focus has to be on building a mechanism to take the dialogue on improving relations forward. And for that Nawaz did move half way and it remains to be seen whether Modi will reciprocate and not abandon the process just as an incident will take place on Line of Control or that Mumbai will continue to dominate the discourse with Pakistan.

Modi’s legitimacy:
To set the tone of his foreign policy with a regional agenda was not something that Narendra Modi did purely out of love for the neighbours. It also has a lot to do with his image building before rest of the world. Even as he came with a huge mandate to rule India, Modi is still seen (at least by a section in Western press) as someone who was complacent with the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. His main challenge is to redo his image at the international level. His acceptance as a ruler who would be inclusive is something he will work on to address the concerns of the International community. That is why he began by surprising his critics who were not expecting him to begin the foreign policy engagement and also had concerns that Modi may start by sending a tough message to a bitter neighbour like Pakistan. But obviously he would not like to remain in isolation, and for an India he has in mind he needs to shun the hard-line ideology and emulate Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Though it is difficult to judge him by just this first step, it is nevertheless a new beginning in the relations of two countries, which has been possible by equal sense of maturity. The road is long ahead with many bumps, but in case both the democratically elected leaders are serious and sincere, India and Pakistan have a space to go together in resolving contentious issues such as Kashmir. BJP has an advantage of not being questioned as far as the nationalistic ideology is concerned but Sharif has more challenges back home. His home work to take Army on board was the right step. But Modi also has to shun the baggage of being a hard-liner for the greater good of region.

Take away:
Much against the backdrop of both governments preferring to keep it low profile, the bilateral meeting has not failed. India was cautious in summing up the outcome but PM Sharif himself was positive saying that it could turn into a historic opportunity and both the leaders could overcome the legacy of mistrust and misgivings by working for peace and stability. However, the Indian Foreign Secretary did talk about raising the issue of terrorism, which means that contours of the dialogue remain same. Nevertheless the agreement that Foreign Secretaries would meet to further the process of cementing the trust could be seen as the take away from this meeting.

By arrangement with Rising Kashmir

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 
Related Articles
Shreya Upadhyay,
"Modi-fying Indo-US Relations," 28 May 2014
Manish Dabhade,
"Interpreting Modiís Diplomatic Signalling," 28 May 2014
Wasbir Hussain,
"Foreign Policy Challenges for Modi," 22 May 2014
PR Chari,
"India-Pakistan Relations: Modiís Options," 19 May 2014
Sushant Sareen,
"Modi-fying India-Pakistan Relations," 19 May 2014

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
J&K: Nailing the Lies

Governor's Rule and PDP's Dilemma

India-Pakistan Relations: A New Low

J&K: The Fractured Mandate

Article 370 Bandwagon

Machil Verdict and Eluding Justice

Denigrating Kashmiri Muslims

Post-poll administrative inertia

Ignoring political realities of Kashmir

Youth and Jihad in Kashmir

Kashmir missing in Modiís first-year priorities

The NC Revamp

The Poll Message: Loud and Clear

Competing poll narratives

Pakistan: Shooting the Messengers

PaK Returnees: A Ditched Lot

ĎLawí of Political Inheritance

Lost in the Bargain

BJP's Soft Mantra on Kashmir

Climbing the Wrong Hill

Of Sedition and Cricket

Smokescreen of Secularism

Pakistanís Kashmir dilemma

DGMOs Break the Ice

India-Pakistan: Afghan End-Game

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.