Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, analysts have been watching to see who would call the shots in Indian foreign policy—parliament or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Now with BJP’s adoption of a resolution on foreign policy the situation has become clear; it is the hardliners in BJP who will remote control India’s policy.
BJP’s National Executive endorsed five pillars of foreign policy or “Panchamrit” of dignity, dialogue, security, shared prosperity and culture. Most of these are subjective, vague, and unquantifiable. This was the first separate resolution on foreign policy brought up by the BJP in its National Executive. BJP’s foreign policy framework calls for peaceful and cooperative relations with Pakistan in fighting terrorism. The BJP is “committed to building peaceful and friendly relations with Pakistan, predicated on an end to terrorism.” Meeting of National Executive also (mischievously) praised the government of Narendra Modi for “firmly and appropriately responding to the provocations on the border (read LoC and Working Boundary) allegedly by Pakistani troops”.
Pakistan and India have remained engaged in the past under the framework of Composite Dialogue—a structured dialogue covering all issues. Pakistan is committed to a result-oriented, sustainable and meaningful dialogue with India to address all issues of mutual concern including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. India’s new trend of focusing on the issue of terrorism only is a dangerous strategy; it implies that India no longer wants to have a meaningful dialogue with Pakistan. Stressing that “terrorism and talks cannot go together”, the BJP resolution said India’s engagement with Pakistan would be based on strategic interests. BJP attacked the previous Congress-led government, saying “a cursory glance at the ‘lost decade’ of the UPA, reveals retreat and a loss of direction in engaging with neighbours, ham-handed diplomacy vis-à-vis Pakistan and a blind-spot in our foreign policy to the Indian Ocean island states”.
On Pakistan, the resolution further said, “We have laid out a clear policy for building peaceful and friendly relations with Pakistan, predicated on an end to terrorism… There can be no compromise with terrorism. There can’t be any duplicity towards a problem that has become a regional crisis and is fast becoming an international nightmare…All outstanding issues with Pakistan can be resolved through bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror and violence.”
The upcoming Indian trajectory is clear: no matter what Pakistan does to stem terrorism, Pakistan’s effort to end terrorism would have to meet Indian evaluation standards, and naturally it won’t. Hence, no dialogue. And to talk to India, Pakistan must forget about Hurryiat Conference leadership, Kashmir and water issues; also stop talking about bringing to book the perpetrators of bombing of Pakistani train Samjhauta express. In the early hours of February 19, 2007, sixty-eight people, mostly Pakistani civilians were killed and scores more injured in a terrorist attack on this train. India’s National Investigation Agency had concluded that Swami Aseemanand was the mastermind behind the blasts. Aseemanand’s confessional statement points towards involvement of government agencies and serving military officers in this incident. In a bid to cover-up the matter, investigation on this gory incident has been slowed down and all main culprits, including Swami Aseemanand, are on bail. Whenever Pakistan takes up this matter with India, instead of giving an explanation, India shows attitude and starts crying about Mumbai incident. Sole survivor out of the attackers of Mumbai incident, Ajmal Kasab, was hanged in an indecent haste that has hampered the ongoing investigations in to the Mumbai attacks.
Interestingly, one of the Indian home ministry official, had submitted an affidavit in Indian court stating that the Mumbai attack and an earlier attack on Indian parliament were false flag operations planned and conducted by the Indian intelligence agencies to garner support for enacting tougher anti-terror laws. Later, under duress, he withdrew the affidavit. According to Times of India, RVS Mani, who as home ministry under-secretary signed the affidavits submitted in court had said that Satish Verma, until recently a part of the Central Bureau of Investigation-SIT probe team, told him that both the 2001 attack on Indian parliament and the 2008 Mumbai attacks were set up “with the objective of strengthening the counter-terror legislation (sic)”. Mani has said that Verma “…narrated that the attack on parliament was followed by Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act and terrorists’ siege of Mumbai was followed by amendment to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.”
This is the Indian government’s track record on prevention of terrorism. Notwithstanding this, in a follow up to the BJP’s resolution, Modi in his interview to Hindustan Times said: “We remain open to bilateral dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues in an environment free from terrorism and violence…The Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration have to be the basis for going forward…Peace can only thrive when the climate is right”. Modi also spoke on his pro-active engagement with India’s South Asian neighbours, sparking fears that an attitude of apathy would send these nations into China’s arms. “We want SAARC to flourish….The dividends are visible in the quantum leap in relations with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. But peace cannot co-exist with terrorism, can it?” he concluded. India had actively taken sides during recent elections in Sri Lanka for installing a pliant government.
Now it will be interesting to take a look at the Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration and see what way forward these documents suggest; and also observe how India has been flouting these two agreements. Simla Agreement states that: “…Government of India and the Government of Pakistan have agreed as follows: (i) That the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations shall govern the relations between the two countries. (ii) That the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means…Pending the final settlement of any of the problems between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation…” India violated the agreement and invaded Siachen in 1984.
Likewise, Lahore declaration states that: “The Prime Ministers of the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan … Committed to the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, and the universally accepted principles of peaceful coexistence;…that the resolution of all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir is essential for this purpose; … respective Governments shall intensify their efforts to resolve all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Now, once again India wants to unilaterally change the status quo in Kashmir by raising Israeli style settlements for Kashmiri pundits. With the passage of time, this concept shall be stretched to the limit to change the demographic composition of Kashmir. India has also embarked on a comprehensive plan to divert the water of Pakistani rivers
During his recent visit to Pakistan Indian foreign secretary delivered a letter from Narendra Modi to Nawaz Sharif. It was a stern warning that either Pakistan should fall in line, and grant transit rights and trade concessions to India, or India would gang up with remaining members of SAARC and go ahead by sidelining Pakistan. This is how India views SAARC, a tool to intimidate Pakistan.
Preconditioning the dialogue with favourable environment is a non-starter. Dialogues are initiated to make the environment favourable. Apparently India has taken a decision to freeze dialogue with Pakistan for a decade or so—barring occasional photo-ops to divert international pressures. Pakistan should not go overboard in commencing dialogue with India, unless India rationalizes its overall approach toward Pakistan. Keeping in view the prevailing Indian mindset, Pakistan should watch out its tendency of hurling unilateral concessions to India.