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Pakistan: Indian Prime Minister’s Visit Politically Inadvisable – Analysis


By Dr. Subhash Kapila


Ashley Tellis’s observations quoted in author’s SAAG paper No. 1133 dated 1-10-2004 entitled “India’s Benchmarks for Peace with Pakistan”:

  • Both sides (India and Pakistan) need to come to terms that the Congress does not have much to put on the table than the BJP put on the table.
  • Indian bottom-lines do not change with respect to who is in power in Delhi
  • Case exists where a Congress Government may be weaker with respect to concluding an agreement with Pakistan
  • But at the end of the day this discussion on India-Pakistan relations will be conducted under the ground rules of ‘realpolitik’ and the freedom of manoeuvre is considerably limited.

President Zardari of Pakistan and the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh seem to be virtually on the same page when it comes to the proposed visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Pakistan. Both seem to invest heavily on the symbolism attached to such a visit rather than the predictable lack of substantial outcome from such a visit in the flawed contextual political and strategic overhang plaguing relations between Pakistan and India for more than six decades.

Pakistan - India Relations
Pakistan – India Relations

Pakistan’s President Zardari may have domestic compulsions to divert public attention by an Indian Prime Ministerial visit to Pakistan. The Indian Prime Minister does not have any such compulsions and should Dr. Manmohan Singh succumb to Pakistani overtures sugar-coated with a visit to his ancestral village of Gah, he would be visiting Pakistan against the general mill of Indian public opinion. This was evident from the adverse Indian public reaction carried by the Indian media to revive the Pakistani cricket team’s tour of India this winter, leave alone an Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister’s proposed visit to Pakistan this year-end is not only heavily politically inadvisable but equally strategically inadvisable. The Indian public evaluates Pakistan’s sincerity and genuineness to bring sustainable peace not from political rhetoric emanating from President Zardari or the Indian Prime Minister, but more importantly from Pakistan’s strategic responses in terms of its posturing on Mumbai 26/11, Border skirmishes on LOC, continued infiltration in J&K etc.

Pakistan’s political environment is dominated today by a struggle for supremacy between the Executive and the Supreme Court judiciary, an uneasy truce between the Pakistan Army and the Executive, and a battle by Pakistan’s Islamist organizations to gain mastery of Pakistan’s governance. Politically, Pakistan today is in the throes of one of its most pronounced Anti-American official postures especially from the Pakistan Army and the Pakistani street and this could be a complicating factor for India in Indo-US relations which are presently on the up-swing.


India’s political environment comparatively is also not that reassuring. There is a widespread perception across all shades of Indian public opinion as evident from Indian media reports that there is political mis-governance and policy paralysis. The Indian Government has received critical observations in the media that on all important issues including foreign policy, the Government has not attempted to build a bipartisan consensus. It would be difficult for the Indian Prime Minister to gain bipartisan political support for any of his Pakistan initiatives especially where they are perceived to be compromises especially those of military significance.

With such political environments prevailing both in Pakistan and India, it is open to question whether this is a politically opportune moment for a Summit Meeting between the leaders of both nations especially when their own political credibility within their respective nations is under a cloud presently.

Stretching the political perspectives into 2012-end, 2013 and finally into 2014 the political factors mitigating against a Pakistan-India Summit between President Zardari and PM Manmohan Singh, emerge even more problematic and discouraging.

Pakistan is due for political changes in early 2013, if not an earlier election forced by political dynamics underway. Presidential elections and General Elections are due in early 2013 which could bring about a change in political dispensations. The Pakistan Army Chief of Staff is also due to retire in 2013 after an extended tenure. So also would be the case of the Pakistan Supreme Court Justice. On all counts therefore Pakistan would be in a state of political flux not conducive for any political Summits or any substantial parleys with foreign leaders.

With the political dynamics in both Pakistan and India in a state of political flux, turbulence and uncertainty, the big question that arises is as to what big sustainable political gains can be achieved by the proposed visit to Pakistan by the Indian Prime Minister before 2012 is out?

Strategically, the major and critical question that the Indian Prime Minister and those pushing for a 2012 visit to Pakistan is that over and above the Pakistani foot-dragging on Mumbai 26/11. LOC border firings and infiltration in J&K, is the over-arching attitudinal policy fixations of Pakistan towards India in not shifting away from its adversarial stances which has been a Pakistan policy precept from 1947 onwards.

Strategically, Pakistan (at least most Pakistanis perceive so) consider that India is the bigger threat than the Taliban, Pakistan perceives that India should be forced to exit (economic presence) Afghanistan, and lastly the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy continues to be to offset India’s natural predominance in South Asia by facilitating greater Chinese military obtrusiveness in Pakistan especially Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Finally we are faced with some big questions and these are whether the proposed visit by the present Indian Prime Minister can bring about a reverse shift in gears by Pakistan from its strategic fixations? Can Dr. Manmohan Singh’s visit to Pakistan politically nudge Pakistan towards sustainable peace with India? Can Dr. Manmohan Singh’s visit to Pakistan induce Pakistan to shed its Chinese strategic nexus which is patently Anti-Indian in nature? Can Dr. Manmohan Singh’s visit to Pakistan result in handing over Hafiz Saeed and other Mumbai 26/11 conspirators to India for trial?

Pakistan by no stretch of imagination can be expected to yield on the above political and strategic issues as confrontation and conflict with India have become deeply etched and deeply embedded mind-sets in the Pakistani establishment.

Then what encourages the Indian policy establishment to press-on the Indian Prime Minister to visit Pakistan despite all the political and strategic odds stacked against it? Or is it that Dr. Manmohan Singh is personally obsessive about a visit to Pakistan, if for nothing else than a visit to his ancestral village? That in any case can take place even after he demits his office.

Or is it that the Pakistani establishment perceives mistakenly that Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister of India would be more amenable to yield concessions to Pakistan on Siachin and vacation of Saltoro Ridge and the Sir Creek? Can the Indian Prime Minister afford to ignore the views of successive Indian Army Chiefs on any compromises in the military domain?

Pakistan-India Summit Meets raise heightened expectations in both nations. In Pakistan the heightened expectations focus on Kashmir and Saltoro Ridge demilitarisation as a separate issue de-linked from Kashmir issue. On the Indian side heightened expectations will revolve around Mumbai 26/11 demands and sustainable peace and credible peace guarantees.

Neither President Zardari of Pakistan nor Indian PM Manmohan Singh is politically credibly placed to fulfil expectations of each other’s countries.

To those who advocate that peace should be given a chance, my request to them is to address that message to the Pakistani establishment. Peace is a two way street and cannot be reduced to a unilateral India initiative as that would be read by the Pakistani establishment as appeasement under Pakistan’s intransigent policy pressures.

A credible Pakistan India Summit is an idea whose time has not yet come and India should have the political conviction and courage to say so to Pakistan.


SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

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