Author : Manoj Joshi

Originally Published 2016-10-25 08:16:58 Published on Oct 25, 2016
In the post BRICS narrative, Modi government’s recent policy towards Pakistan has been described as a "game changer" but has it's own limitations
Modi's limited Pakistan policy at BRICS
The Modi government’s recent policy towards Pakistan - which has included a combination of surgical strikes, naming and shaming Islamabad, and using international events to isolate and sanction it - has been described as a "game changer". Certainly the government has expended a vast deal of diplomatic capital in trying to get Pakistan to modify its behavior and principally end the sanctuary and support it offers to a slew of anti-India and anti-Afghanistan jihadis.


However, the game will have changed, only after Islamabad does what's needed. As of now there are no indications that it will do so. In other words, it would be wise to declare victory when victory indeed occurs, not prematurely. The limitation of New Delhi’s policies was apparent in the recent BRICS summit. Host India’s primary focus was to get this powerful grouping to chastise Pakistan. Few will deny that despite paragraphs generally criticising terrorism, the body failed to depict Pakistan as that unique fountainhead of global terrorism that India had been talking about. Pakistan has brought a lot of this on its own head. Prime Minister Modi had put out a lot of capital in trying to befriend his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. However, the attack on Pathankot, shortly after his surprise descent in Islamabad, forced Modi to shift to a tough line. Now, following the Uri attack, the government has hardened that line into a new policy that indicates that New Delhi will not simply seek to shield its territory, but retaliate against any attack whose footprints lead to Pakistan. The insistent question confronting Prime Ministers since Chandrashekhar, who was the PM when J&K blew up in 1990, even as Punjab was burning, is: 'Should we seek to “manage” Pakistan, or to change it'. Many Indian liberals, who say that our common culture unites South Asia, believe that once the baleful influence of the military is removed, Pakistan will be like any other country in the region. On the other hand, hard-headed pragmatists say that this may or may not happen but anyway - A: It is not the responsibility of India to bring it change Pakistan and - B: It requires so much time and effort that it will distract New Delhi from its other larger economic and diplomatic goals.


So Indian policy alternates between reaching out to the civilian governments and the business community, to blocking and, on occasion, hitting back at the military- backed jihadis who attack India. We are now at a unique conjuncture where a government, which can hardly be called liberal, is moving along the path of trying to change Pakistan. It is seeking to do this through tough love - calling for the international community to isolate and sanction Islamabad. The problem is that the international community is simply not buying this. There are various reasons for this. Firstly, is the infirmity in New Delhi’s case in refusing to recognise that it has a problem in Jammu and Kashmir and it needs to do something about it, other than blaming Pakistan. Secondly, many recognise that the repeated references to terrorism by Modi are also occasioned by domestic electoral considerations, especially to coming Uttar Pradesh elections. Thirdly, Islamabad remains an important player in the Afghanistan game, an issue of considerable interest to the United States, China and Russia.


The recent effort to restart the Taliban-Afghan government talks in Doha is an indicator that Pakistan remains the key player there. Finally, India offers little or nothing to Beijing to moderate, leave alone abandon, support to Islamabad. At least it has given Russia a multi-billion dollar arms deal, and even then, Moscow has been grudging with its support. International relations are a ruthless affair where nations pursue their interests and modify their behaviour when threatened with the stick, or offered some carrots. All India has on offer to China is high rhetoric and a pathetic boycott of Chinese firecrackers, and yet it wants Beijing to fall in line behind India in South Asia. The simple fact that it is we who need something from China, not the other way round, hasn’t sunk into the minds of the powers that be and their supporters. It is certainly true that India should play hardball in international politics. But to do so you also need the wherewithal, not just in terms of dollars which are important, or guns to export, but also in a clear headed understanding of where our national interests lie, how to further them and how not to allow any considerations, especially domestic political ones, like a desire to win elections to over-ride them. This commentary originally appeared in Mail Today.
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Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi

Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...

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