In Search of Sanity

Five factors will determine the future course of Pak-India.

That a slightly weaker PM Modi will be constrained to mend ways with China and Pakistan is at best wishful thinking. With no change in his mindset or his lieutenants in external affairs, interior, defense, and finance, any hopes of a significant change in New Delhi’s internal or external policies must be kept under constant scrutiny. More importantly, with Ajit Doval celebrating his 80th birthday in office, no alteration should be expected in the national security domain either.

Undoubtedly, the NDA did not come up to Modi’s expectations. Indeed, the election results defied the pre-poll surveys and surprised even the opposition. However, that does not mean Modi has lost his mojo altogether or he will have to compromise big time on the policies his party vehemently pursued particularly in his second term as the Prime Minister of ‘Shining India’. Coalition it was. Coalition it is. Indeed, the election results have inflicted a couple of political injuries to the Modi-conceived-nationalism. Nevertheless, he and his partners have already absorbed the initial shock. Hence, the soothsayers may wish to cautiously predict any major changes, especially in India’s foreign policy objectives.

Clearly, the people of India would like to eat first before venturing into the hitherto unexplored terrains of foreign policy. To them, addressing the alarming unemployment rate seems more important than India’s joining the elite P-5. The ordinary voter is hardly impressed by the enviable advancement in space technology or the steps taken towards a Greater India. Even becoming the third largest economy has little charm for the Indian poor who would like to have at least two square meals a day. In all probabilities, Modi and his capable team will first examine the reasons as to why the BJP-led Alliance could not achieve the milestone of 400 seats. Again, the argument would be inherently flawed if the election results were construed as a rejection of Modi’s policies. The voters have quietly reminded their leader to prioritize and re-do his checklist. Domestic trends and drivers are always more important than winning battles outside.

Following the election results, Pak-based Think Tanks remain skeptical about any ‘normalization’ any time soon. It is not understood why they keep wishing to have a different PM in New Delhi. Another logical fallacy…!! As if, a coalition led by Congress would bring back the status of Jammu & Kashmir to its pre-Aug 2019 standing. As if, the State of India’s foreign policy would take a dramatic turn and the stalled dialogue process would be recommenced forthwith. As if, all proposals made by Islamabad lately would be responded to proactively ad seriatim. Those who know the present Indian leadership and India’s internal political dynamics are aware of certain hardcore facts. For instance, no political party worth its salt would even think to reverse the August 2019 actions. Talking about reproachment with ‘enemies’ while in opposition is a known political ploy. Once in power, no Indian leader would have the nerve to even table a resolution to this effect.

Does that mean a permanent adios to Pak-India relations? Will a slightly weaker Modi continue considering Pakistan as ‘irrelevant’ to India’s overall geopolitical and geostrategic designs? Does it imply that no dialogue will ever take place between the two countries? In other words, does it mean a nuclear South Asian environment will remain edgy and tense forever? The answer is, no. Things may change. However, first and foremost, the desire to coexist peacefully needs to be mutual and unrestricted - an element that has been missing from the equation. More importantly, do they have the requisite political will to sort out issues and not each other while bypassing the hidden detractors - after accepting the ground realities? Too many ifs and buts. Let us simplify.

Five factors will determine the future course of Pak-India relations – and prove or disprove if the desire to have peace in the region is genuine:

One: See if both countries remain focused on dealing with their respective demons without interfering in each other’s internal affairs.

Two: Check if India makes any reference to AJ&K and the Indus Waters Treaty. Watch if Pakistan revisits its talking points on IOK after taking a holistic view of the volatile South Asian strategic environment. See if Islamabad tasks its Mission in NY to utilize the two-year non-permanent membership of the UNSC to muster support on Kashmir.

Three: Observe if the channels used to agree on ‘fully implementing the ceasefire understanding of 2003 in letter and spirit’ are utilized to avoid any untoward security-related misadventure.

Four: Wait if both countries give diplomacy a chance and a meaningful go-ahead to their respective diplomats. Note if ‘hate’ is even vaguely replaced with ‘hope’ and the T or K words are not used frequently. Observe if both sides desist from issuing provocative statements or try not to create embarrassing situations for each other. See if the High Commissioners for Islamabad and New Delhi are nominated in the coming months. Watch if both sides talk positively before holding talks.

Six: Finally, the litmus test…!! See if Pakistan takes some practical steps to integrate Gilgit Baltistan as a ‘provisional’ province.

Footnote for PM Modi: It is evident that New Delhi needs to synthesize the idea of nationalism. No harm in visualizing the Indian youth studying history in 2050 and beyond. Would His Excellency wish to be remembered just as a leader who equaled Nehru’s record of becoming the Indian PM thrice or as a visionary leader who made peace with enemies? His Excellency may also wish to analyze the reasons why Gandhi’s philosophy of Ahimsa (non-violence) implemented through Satyagraha (holding on to truth by non-violent resistance) still holds water. If under the present geopolitical and geostrategic circumstances, following Gandhi’s Ahimsa seems difficult, how about paying respect to what Chanakya once observed – ‘The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind. But the goodness of a person spreads in all directions.’

Najm us Saqib
The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and author of eight books in three languages. He can be reached at najmussaqib

The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and author of eight books in three languages. He can be reached at

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