What Modi Wants

TWO successive cancellations of the scheduled talks with Pakistan over the past year has shone the spotlight on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Pakistan and Kashmir policy. Though PM was expected to take a hardline stance on both, many leaders in Kashmir had chosen to give him a benefit of doubt. In a gossamer reflection on Modi’s meteoric rise to power, the Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed as also the moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had likened him to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Modi, the leaders predicted, will carry forward Vajpayee’s policies on Pakistan and Kashmir and will be capable of taking bold decisions to resolve Kashmir.  A year on, Modi couldn’t have been farther from this anticipated role for him. By no stretch of imagination, has Modi proved to be a seamless successor to Vajpayee. It was only a spurious link that hasn’t stood the test of time. And then Vajpayee himself wasn’t what he is made out to be.  True he embarked on initiatives to normalize relations with Pakistan. He took bus to Pakistan. He invited Musharraf to Agra a year after Kargil. And it were, in part, his peace overtures which culminated into promising Singh-Musharraf engagement and the subsequent four point formula for Kashmir solution.  But it was also Vajpayee led NDA government which summarily rejected autonomy resolution passed by a landslide majority by J&K Assembly. It was Vajpayee government which mobilized Army on the border with Pakistan following  the parliament attack, bringing the two countries to the brink of war. And it was Vajpayee who presided over nuclear tests which worsened the security scenario of the region and created a permanent spectre of nuclear clash after Pakistan. So, we can safely conclude that  it is nothing but wishful thinking that Modi will deliver on Kashmir.  More so, when more than ever before public opinion in India is doggedly against any concession on the state, a move that in Indian imagination is seamlessly interpreted as a concession to Pakistan. 

Modi’s policy on Pakistan and Kashmir is not to move on the resolution of the longstanding issues but to play to the public sentiment in India to help consolidate and perpetuate his hold on power. He knows that the prevailing geo-politics is in India’s favour.  India’s rising economic stature has won it many friends among the major powers who see the country as an alternative marketplace  and the global economic engine. So,Modi knows that even if there is an adverse international fallout of the broken engagement with Islamabad, India’s new found economic clout will not only cushion it but also give the country a manoeuvrability to shape the global climate to its advantage. But will such a policy be in India’s long term interest? Very unlikely.  Lingering hostility with Pakistan and the uncertainty in Kashmir will not bode well for the security scenario in the country. Not only that, a suspended dialogue with Pakistan  runs the constant risk of the sudden escalation in the tensions, with a possibility of the situation even getting out of hand. Recent weeks have witnessed a return to the intense border skirmishes leading to the loss of lives on both sides. There have also been major militant attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur.  And should a big terror strike  take place, New Delhi with its popular new rhetoric on Pakistan would find it difficult not to respond. This is all the more reason for the PM to get back to a more pragmatic policy on Islamabad and also Kashmir. The true salvation for the region does not lie in sabre rattling – albeit it might momentarily galvanize  a large section of public opinion in Modi’s favour –  it lies in the resolution of festering issues, most prominent of them the issue of Kashmir.

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