By Manoj Joshi
The Modi government’s Pakistan policy remains intriguing.
We have seen the flip-flops of 2014 and 2015, ranging from border bombardments to hearty embraces and cold vibes.
But the direction it is taking now is baffling. In international meeting after meeting, the prime minister has attacked Pakistan’s support of terrorism and the need to sanction Islamabad.
Take the past week for instance.
On September 4, in Hangzhou, addressing fellow BRICS leaders, Modi said that there was need to intensify joint action against terrorism which had become the primary source of instability and biggest threat to the world.
Alluding to Pakistan he said, “Clearly someone funds and arms them.”
On September 5, Modi intensified the attack saying that “one single nation” in South Asia was spreading terror and that there was need for that nation to be sanctioned.
On September 7, addressing the ASEAN summit in Vientiane, Modi declared “one country has only one competitive advantage: exporting terror”. And again reiterated the need to “isolate and sanction” the country which was a threat to everyone.
Two days later on September 9, foreign secretary S Jaishankar followed it up in a speech to a US think tank in New Delhi where he said that the fight against terrorism could not be segmented and that no country could escape responsibility by ascribing terrorist actions to non-state actors.
These are only the most recent broadsides, in the past six months, whether addressing the nation on Independence Day, the diaspora in Kenya or Belgium, or the US Congress, Modi has not hesitated to raise the primacy of terrorism as an issue.
It’s not clear whether there is some other strategy behind this relentless assault on Pakistan. Accompanying his attack has been his criticism of the UN for its inability to come up with appropriate responses.
Addressing the G-20 in Istanbul in the wake of the Paris attack in November 2015, Modi had called for an international convention on terrorism, an old idea that New Delhi has pushed to little avail since the 1990s.
What we do know as of now is that the Modi government’s assaults on Pakistan are only verbal.
There are no reports of any Balochistan liberation organisations or Taliban-ambushing Pakistani forces, or any unexplained bomb blasts which could suggest that India was hitting at Pakistan in other ways.
The obvious question is: does the Modi government believe that a verbal bombardment in world capitals will force Islamabad to surrender?
Pakistan has played a cynical game for so long and has done so many bad things ranging from training and arming terrorists to killing innocent people to exporting nuclear weapons technology, that to think that they can be shamed into giving up the use of the terror weapon appears naïve, to say the least.
Had India been reeling with the kind of terrorist attacks the French are witnessing, or the ones that hit Kabul or Baghdad every day, Modi’s zeal could have been understandable.
Fortunately, since November 2008, India has been spared a mass-casualty terrorist strike.
Then why has Modi taken the mantle of the leader of the global crusade against terrorism? The only conclusion we can come to is that the goals are domestic.
Attacking Pakistan plays well with north Indian voters and keeps the other parties off-balance and unable to focus on the fact that his government’s achievements have been meagre, compared to the extravagant promises that had been made in 2014.
Perhaps, Modi’s economic plan will bear fruit in the future, but Modi cannot afford to allow the political support he got in 2014 to slacken, at least not before the UP elections next year, and hence, the terrorism plank.
There is no surprise element here, or across the world; terrorism has proved to be a good plank for politicians.
Of course, throughout this period, Modi is being extended help by the hawks in Islamabad, who find it difficult to get off the tiger they mounted in the 1990s.
It is not that the Pakistani deep state is afraid of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.
They probably have them, to use the famous words of General Aziz Khan, by their “tooti” (collar). It is that they cannot contemplate giving up what they consider their most useful instruments of policy.
In part, dealing with them does, require them to do what Modi and his men are doing. But instead of verbal barrages, there is need for deft diplomacy to isolate Islamabad.
Here, of all the tasks, the most difficult is to persuade Beijing to join in. And this is where we find that the Modi plan lacks stamina because, as the foreign secretary’s Friday statement on China revealed: the government has the ability to state the problem, but not the wherewithal to do something about it, expect complain.
This article originally appeared in Mail Today.
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