Following the footsteps of Kashmiris, people of Delhi flocked the polling booths on February 07, to register their anti-Modi sentiment. Exit polls predict that ‘Aam Aadmi’ (Common Man) Party may even win two third majority. After having invested substantial political capital in these two elections, falling short of success would be quite a setback for Modi. Concurrently Washington has asked India to improve ties with neighbours, State Department has describes the US ties with Islamabad and Delhi as vital; and New York Time has slammed Modi over his silence on religious intolerance. May be Modi need a pause for self-reflection.
Pakistan has repeatedly stated that it seeks improved ties with India. However, Indian leadership’s aggressive language– with quite deliberate intent— has in many ways sabotaged these efforts. Modi’s reluctance to move in the direction of peace places the region in danger. Modi’s electoral campaign had overtones and undercurrents of anti-China and anti-Pakistan rhetoric. On domestic side his articulations pointed towards Hindutva. There was a hope that after the elections he would mellow and get down with the business of statecraft as a prudent leader. So far it has not happened; and flimsy electoral slogans have gone to his head. There is no likelihood that he would replicate AB Vajpayee. He has not been able to outgrow his Tea-boy and Chief Minster shoes.
While Pakistan should hope for the better, it is time that Modi be taken on his face value and reciprocated accordingly. Earlier the Prime Minster of Pakistan overcomes his misplaced obsession to have good relations with India, better it would be; reality should sink that it takes two to tango. Nawaz Sharif should first of all caution his trade minister who appears in indecent haste to bestow ‘Non-Discriminatory Market Access’ (NDMA) status on India. It will be worthwhile if ministry digs out archives of the precursor of WTO—Uruguay Rounds of Talks in which Pakistan had started participating, as a member state, soon after its independence. This professional exercise would reveal upon the minster the security related clauses in those archived documents which had specifically linked free trade with India to the resolution of Kashmir dispute. India has given numerous direct, indirect and cross subsidies to its agriculture sector which Modi has refused to withdraw on the pretext of his priority to ‘feed its poor’. Trade minister is being foolhardy to assume that he will be able to protect Pakistan’s agriculture sector against the onslaught of highly subsidised Indian products.
Modi’s Chanakyan mannerism during Obama’s recent visit to India was quite telling. He went out of his way to raise Obama to god’s status. It is interesting to contrast it with Saudi King’s behaviour; when American President reached to condole the passing-away of King Abdullah with the new monarch, King Suleiman left his guest(s) unattended when the call to prayer was made. Despite Modi’s beneath dignity behavior, nothing eye popping happened at the end of summit; mostly previously stalled matters were re-railed. Obama restated his 2010 articulation about American backing for India’s permanent seat at the UN Security Council. However, at the end of his visit Obama reminded India to care about others, of another religion, race or a region, or of another people, because without such harmony and inclusivity; India could barter all its advantages if it continues to be blinded by ambition to establish, racial, ethnic, religious or regional exclusivity.
One area of Indo-US converging interests relates to China’s containment in the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean. During Xi Jinping’s visit to India on September 2014, Modi hyped a benign border incident to humble the guest. Modi’s message to Xi (translated from the Hindi), was, “Even such small incidents can impact the biggest of relationships just as a little toothache can paralyze the entire body.” This was indeed a music to American ears.
No wonders India was mentioned in Obama dispatches as a global partner and was invited to play role in global geopolitics; especially in the South China Sea and in the Indian Ocean. Beijing downplayed the significance of Obama’s trip to New Delhi, but has surely noted that the joint statements released after Modi’s visit to Washington (shortly after receiving Xi in India) as well as after Obama’s trip, referenced maritime activities by China’s Navy. China has not liked American pampering of India for an anti-China role.
While he pours tea for Obama, Modi pushes Pakistan to conform to the demands of new India in leaving out Kashmir from the international agenda, or punish the Mumbai trial suspects before a dialogue can be granted to Pakistan. He generates sporadic pressures on Pakistan through frequent ceasefire violations. Jammu and Kashmir is an issue of right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people, enshrined in numerous UN resolutions. India continues to usurp this right with impunity, in violation of the UN Security Council Resolutions and the UN Charter. Unlike India, Pakistan’s position on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute is based on international humanitarian law, UN Security Council resolutions and underpinned by moral and political principles. The reality is that India with its illusions of grandeur, is obsessed with aggrandizement.
In its efforts to write a mythical history, India has forgotten the acknowledgement and commitments by its first Prime Minister on Jammu and Kashmir dispute. In his address to Indian parliament, on 1st August 1952, he declared: “I should like to say that the ultimate decision will be made in the minds and hearts of the men of Kashmir and not in this Parliament or in the UN…. First of all, let me say clearly that we accept the basic proposition that the future of Kashmir is going to be decided finally by the goodwill and pleasure of its people. The goodwill and the pleasure of this Parliament is of no importance in this matter… because any kind of imposition would be against the principle that this Parliament holds…..If, however, the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain with us, let them go by all means; we will not keep them against their will, however, painful it may be to us. We want no forced marriages, no forced unions”.
On domestic front, factors contributing to Modi’s victory have been several. The unstinted support given to him by India’s corporate; the fanatical zeal of the RSS; the false projection of the ‘Gujarat model of development’; the polarization of society along religious lines; and discrediting of the Congress government through the campaigns launched by the likes of Anna Hazare. Now gradually the cabinet system of governance is giving way to one man’s autocratic ways, with secretaries of Government departments reporting directly to Modi. Losers are the weaker sections of Indian society. The ‘labour reforms’ brought in by this government will do away with whatever little protective clauses are there for them. The land acquisition by industrialists is being made easy at the cost of those who own the lands. The other social welfare schemes for the poor are under the threat of being done away with too.
The intimidation of religious minorities has been stepped up. Christmas Day was declared as ‘Good Governance Day’ in a move to undermine this festival. Attacks on churches and mosques have been taking place frequently. The statements that we are Hindus and this is a Hindu State have become more and more assertive, and Modi maintains a purposeful silence, because all this is an integral part of the agenda of the BJP and its parent organization, the RSS. With the BJP now having a simple majority, their agenda unfolds in an uninhibited manner. Time has come for Pakistan to take Modi at his actions and not his articulations; and carefully manage its India policy to safeguard national interests.
The Nation, February 09, 2015
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.