Dealing with Pakistan is seen as one of the biggest challenges that an Indian Prime Minister faces. If gone wrong, the potential ramifications of a government’s Pak-policy can literally destroy its perception in public, and can even single-handedly lift it to the peak of popularity if things go as planned. PM Modi is a leader from whom the public has huge expectations vis-à-vis his Pak-policy. And to understand how well he has performed on that front, one has to first keep in mind two points – 1) Indo-Pak relations affect the whole world and hence keeping in mind the affects of our Pak-policy on world perception is crucial and, 2) India can do its bit in tackling Pakistan but one has to remember that we can’t control their actions. I’ll elaborate on both points citing examples.
The swearing-in ceremony of PM Modi was historic largely due to his move of inviting the heads of SAARC nations, including Nawaz Sharif. At the very outset he dealt a severe blow to his image of being seen as an anti-Pakistan figure and one who would bully his neighbour with his newly gained power. As few months went by both PM Modi learnt the intricacies of foreign policy and Pakistan gained a feel of who they were dealing with. These were rather uneventful times. But a major indication of PM Modi’s Pak-policy came when his government shunned talks with Pakistan when they decided to talk to the Hurriyat. This move sent out multiple messages – first one to Pakistan that Kashmir is an integral part of India and any talks regarding the state shall only be held with the elected government, and the second to world powers to not entertain Pakistan’s Kashmir rant because India is not willing to have a third entity become party to the Kashmir debate.
Pakistan has been incessant on the border with its ceasefire violations. It wasn’t surprising that they continued doing so when Narendra Modi came to power. Some people expected that they would stop immediately after he became the PM, but think about what a weak message that would have sent from Pakistan’s end. And it’s only logical that the last thing Pakistan would want to do is appear weak in comparison to India, no matter what the reality. This time around the difference lay in how the Indian side responded to the ceasefire violations. Our soldiers had unambiguous orders to fire back even if a single bullet was fired from the Pakistani side. And this retaliation wasn’t in equal measure with the firing from across the border but it was considerably larger in magnitude. One such retaliation from our side was termed by Pakistan as a ‘mini war’. In this ‘mini war’ India partially or fully destroyed 80-90 Pakistani posts and the casualties on their side were a massive 165 including 85 military personnel. Infact Pakistan even went to the UN complaining about India’s aggressiveness on the border, something that had never happened before! It’s of no surprise that for many months now there hasn’t been news of Pakistan violating the ceasefire.
Pakistan has for a long time sponsored terrorism to create unrest in India. Its army gives cover-fire to terrorists to help them enter our land. One estimate says that during 2013 as many as 450 terrorists entered the country from across the border. The Modi government realized the enormity of the issue and how massive a threat this was to our security, so it beefed up the forces at the border by deploying an extra 70,000 soldiers on the Indo-Pak border. The soldiers were also given shoot-at-sight orders with regards to any intruders from the Pakistani side. Drastic measures have been taken to tackle this problem, one of which involves installing laser walls in areas along the border where conventional fencing or walls aren’t possible due to tough terrain. The result of many such steps was that in less than two years time the number of successful infiltrations came down to two digits.
In an interview, our Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that before their government came to power, the ratio of deaths of our soldiers to the deaths of terrorists was 1:1. In just two years time this ratio has changed to 1:4, meaning now for every death of our soldier four terrorists are sent to hell.
Talks between India and Pakistan have fluctuated; sometimes they went on, at other times they were abandoned due to various reasons. But the ‘golden moment’, as one would say, came when PM Modi decided to surprise the Pakistani establishment with a stopover at Lahore. Not one person in either country would have expected such a sudden and rather brave move by the PM. This short visit of his was a diplomatic triumph. He showed the world that he wanted better relations with Pakistan, and to achieve that he was willing to go the extra mile. It put the onus on Pakistan to maintain the level of warmth that has suddenly emerged between the two establishments. And it also showed the world that for India, peace was the way ahead.
But the glory of his Lahore visit, for some genuine critics and other perpetual cynics, was short-lived as the Pathankot terror attack rocked the country, just a few days after his returning from Lahore. Even as political opponents targeted PM Modi and NSA Ajit Doval ruthlessly for their apparent ‘failure’ (which in fact was a successful operation) in securing the nation, the government had a plan in mind to corner Pakistan. Within a matter of few days the security agencies collected evidence against Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terror group operating from Pakistani soil responsible for the attack and sent it to the Pakistani government. In a massive change of stance from every previous such occasion, the Pakistani government promised action instead of blatantly denouncing India’s evidence. It carried out raids at JeM offices and arrested a few of its members. But expecting Pakistan to arrest Masood Azhar and simply hand him over to the Indian government was a wild fantasy of some people to say the least. But the positive was that Pakistan did show some signs of cooperation.
One demand from the Pakistani end was to let its officers visit Pathankot and gather evidence. Now this was a mere facade; all along they had decided that irrespective of what knowledge they gain at Pathankot, they will say that Pakistan was in no way responsible for the attack. India nodded in agreement to their request, the Pakistani team came and as was expected declared that Pakistan was not responsible in any way for the terror attack. Again political opponents went crazy claiming that PM Modi had held India at ransom and that he doesn’t care for the integrity of the country. Now political opposition to a certain extent is fine and necessary, but some parties act as if PM Modi is accountable only to them and that almost everything that he has done till now is worth nothing but criticism. But in the end it’s they who are losing credibility and not PM Modi who is by now literally immune to fanciful criticism. Coming back to the point, what this incident did was it exposed Pakistan in the eyes of world powers and the UN. Even in view of clear evidence, Pakistan denied its existence and extricated itself. This showed to the world that Pakistan was not serious in fighting terrorism. What this also did was that if in future India opposes Pakistan at some forum or reacts aggressively to its nonsense, India is justified in doing so because as seen from the past Pakistan has no real intent of maintaining sound relations and peace.
Where PM Modi has been outstandingly brilliant has been his foreign policy. His visits have included Afghanistan, Turkmenistan & Iran, countries that have a direct significance with Pakistan and that can prove crucial in directly tackling it. He has had successful visits to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and these nations have signed agreements against or explicitly denounced terrorism and agreed to help India in its counter-terrorism activities. India’s getting assistance from Islamic nations against terrorism is a major setback for Pakistan. Detaching Pakistan from the middle-east has been an integral part of PM Modi’s policy. To top it off, PM Modi has been vibrantly involved in forwarding relations with the US, a nation that has long had a hypocritical approach to dealing with Pakistan. With Indo-US relations at probably an all time high, India can expect, and rightly so, for the US to stop giving financial and military aid to Pakistan. PM Modi has time and again indirectly, yet very clearly isolated Pakistan in his speeches at international forums as a haven of terror, and added that humane nations need to come together to fight against nations that are using terrorism as political tool.
So if we look at a holistic picture of PM Modi’s foreign policy, we see that he has not missed any chance to hurt Pakistan’s image internationally, and at the same time he has tackled the problem of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. To add to this he has been working relentlessly to raise India’s economic and military might to such a level that there comes a time when Pakistan itself accepts that it cannot do anything to hurt India in any manner possible. Now Pakistan continues to produce nuclear weapons at a spectacular rate and its collaboration with China is only strengthening, but there’s nothing that India can do about this, after all one does everything in its reach to survive. PM Modi has also made Kashmir a non-existent issue from India’s end in any meetings he has had with world leaders. And if Nawaz Sharif continues to rant about Kashmir (as he has done), then PM Modi has ignored him like he has been ignoring a very particular politician and his insane statements for a long time now.