Modi’s Adventurism and its Upshots

Recent events and policies of the new BJP government are of concern to both China and Pakistan. It was being observed at the time of formulation of Indian foreign policy towards Pakistan that the new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was focusing on the economy and many domestic issues, along with re-formulating its international relations—especially with the US regarding the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, China, Japan, and unsettled relations with its western neighbor.

There were some changes anticipated in the manifesto of the BJP, it was proposed to expand its ‘web of allies and that it would adopt the policy of ‘zero tolerance’ on terrorism. Another blazing agenda on the manifesto was regarding its pledge to reconsider the nuclear doctrine of ‘no first use,’ which sparked a storm all around.

Border violations are once again on the screens and on discussion forums around the globe. These border skirmishes transpire more-or-less rather frequently in spite of the 2003 cease-fire agreement. Incidentally, the India-Pakistan 2003 cease-fire agreement has been continuously and blatantly violated over the past few years. The Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary (WB) between two nuclear armed states is under a tense spike and is the subject of disobedience of the preceding agreements in this regard. A rapid and swift escalation of violence, stronger than the usual posturing from both governments, and departure from the usual methods of resolution are what sets the current conflict apart.

Regarding this escalation in violence, it is worth mentioning here that the nature of confrontation has been changing on both sides. The unfortunate cases of cross-border attacks are a time in and time out practice, but the state of affairs regarding the strategy adopted by India this time is different. Aggressive statements from Indian leadership over LoC firings call into question earlier-stated intentions to improve relations and restore firm ties with Pakistan.

The on-going tension at the LoC and Working Boundary defines the future intentions of the newly elected democratic government. More specifically, it has been transformed in the way Modi wants to shape foreign policy towards Pakistan and the region. The contemporary scenario is stimulating a challenge to South Asian security that is already under huge stress due to the likely post-2014 emerging strategic environment. Indubitably, these destabilizing incidents not only deteriorate bilateral relations among both nations but also exacerbate regional stability along with the stronger intentions of re-shaping military postures.

The eastern border has been a testing field of India-Pakistan bilateral relations. It is truly acknowledged by the Indian policy makers and political analysts that PM Nawaz Sharif approached India with a hand of friendship, but in contrast, the now and again aggressive statements by the Indian PM do not signal an optimistic future across the LoC. The episodes of bullets and blood hinder expectations on both sides of the border. Regretfully, the efforts of formulating a diplomatic arrangement turned out to be worthless, for which a heavy attendance was ensured on the invitation of Indian PM’s grand reception.

The cancellation of peace talks  added fuel to the fire, but the recent episode of border firing and other provocations in the first year of a new Indian government—at  a time when the region is in flux (the last quarter of 2014, where South Asia post-2014 is subject to several regional and global challenges)—is perceived internationally as revealing a more muscular approach to Indian foreign policy and political approach towards the gradual escalation of Indian military posture, and not as prioritizing the normalization of relations with Pakistan.

Nevertheless, Pakistan’s stance is quite clear by the response of Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Asif to his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley’s warning that Indian forces would render any “adventurism by Pakistan “unaffordable.” He said that Islamabad has the ability to respond to Indian aggression, followed by what could be perceived as a veiled threat. Moreover, he said that we do not want the situation on the borders of two nuclear neighbors to escalate into confrontation. Nevertheless, the response from Pakistani military would deter and restrict India from taking such provocative actions next time, especially the killing of innocent civilians.

No matter to what extent these states opt for economic and trade reforms, stability at the unofficial boundaries (LoC and the Working Boundary) is of utmost importance for a real and long-term peace. Evidently, early gestures and responses from both countries raised the expectations for a fresh start of India-Pakistan relations but unfortunately, India neither kept the expectations up to the mark nor was able to replace the image of Narendra Modi as a hardliner with an image of a neutral and rational leader. To fathom fragility in India- Pakistan relations is not difficult, but if any side wants to abate these bloody cross-border fireworks, the need of hour would be to fill the communication and understanding gaps among both.


Image: Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Getty

Posted in , India, India-Pakistan Relations, leadership, LoC, Military, Pakistan, Politics

Beenish Altaf

Beenish Altaf is working as a Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute, an Islamabad based think tank. Her areas of research are nuclear non-proliferation and strategic issues of South Asia. She has a masters degree in Defence and Diplomatic Studies from Fatima Jinnah Women University. Furthermore, she writes regularly for national and international dailies.

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3 thoughts on “Modi’s Adventurism and its Upshots

  1. Indeed a very rational approach presented by the author. The very newly elected government of Modi have some how showed tangling stance specifically after coming into power. He has actually started to show his actual aggressive nature. Where he seems to be busy in extending hands with western countries specifically in defense and nuclear domains. The very sentiments of Indian government officials towards Pakistan can make the situation worse and put the regional stability at stake viz a viz their nuclear capabilities. Author has very rightly suggested that analyzing the already turmoil-ed and tangled situation of South Asian region and knowingly that the very strategic balance and regional peace is highly dependent and effected by the policies and postures of Pakistan and India towards each other, it is mandatory to resolve the tensions through peace talks and dialogues. Otherwise it would be hard for both states to go back once the tensions heightened.

  2. I am not a politician or a govt spokes man. However i am personally of the view that KASHMIR ISSUE is a burning one and hurdle in relations of the two neighbour countries. India says dialogues should be in between Pakistan and India. Which is totally wrong. If these two govts start dialogues, then what about kashmiries. Actually issue is about kashmiries. Without their participation kashmir issue will remain for ever. Both sides must listen kashmiries and the best solution would be in accordance with the aspirations of them (Kashmiries).

  3. My Take on the issue:

    “Superfluously, the latest round of skirmishes along the Line of Control between Indian and Pakistani troops appears to be just another incident of cross border firing. But if viewed with some degree of objectivity, one could make the reasonable conclusion that it might lead to disaster. Owing to the increasing frequency of firing incidents along the Line of Control and working boundary, the situation is becoming tense by the day. Consequently, if this pattern of cross border clashes continues, the situation could potentially trigger a conflict, and the escalation could have serious repercussions for both India and Pakistan.
    The Indian media is blaming Pakistan for initiating the clashes, but these claims appear ridiculous. Pakistani forces are currently engaged in an ongoing major military operation in the tribal areas with apparently no end in sight. The continuing political stalemate between the government and protestors led by Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri has brought the government to its weakest point since the 2013 elections. And finally, the dwindling economy remains one of the most formidable challenges for the government amidst an ongoing energy crisis and price hike situation in the country.
    Thus, having committed the bulk of its forces against the western front, it would be a strategic and economic nightmare for Pakistan to redeploy its military forces against the emerging threat from the eastern border. Not only would such a deployment prove to be a massive drain for the economy already in doldrums, but it would conceivably put the ongoing military operation in the tribal areas in complete jeopardy. A two front war scenario has always haunted the policy-makers in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The Indian media’s claims of Pakistan initiating the conflict are thus simply untenable.
    It remains entirely inconceivable that Indian forces are escalating the situation without the consent of the political leadership. There could be multiple reasons for this deliberately planned escalation, like coercing Pakistan to squeeze some concessions over disputes like Siachin and Kashmir, or planning to test the efficacy of the military’s nascent proactive cold start strategy, or maybe using it as a pretext to introduce an explicit preemptive clause in the existing nuclear doctrine. It is also possible that the Indian conservative government has decided that it is now time to demonstrate and project power in the region to establish hegemony in South Asia. But the Indian government is disregarding one fundamental fact: there aren’t going to be any winners in a nuclear war. Both Pakistan and India can destroy each other, but none can claim a decisive victory over the other.
    Mr. Modi is apparently living up to his promise of taking a tough stand against Pakistan. Not only has the Indian government pulled out of the secretary level talks recently, besides ruling out the possibility of third party mediation on Kashmir, but has also reiterated that there will be no dialogue until cross border firing continues. This policy illustrates that the incumbent Prime Minister, on one hand, is closing the opportunities of resolving lingering disputes through meaningful dialogue, but is also exerting pressure on Pakistan through military coercion and diplomatic rhetoric. Such imprudent policies would obviously strengthen the perspective in Pakistan about the futility of the dialogue process with India, which is going to compound the problems in the region.
    Mr. Narendra Modi might not have found enough time to read about the dangers posed by nuclear weapons- which can starve to death one third of humanity in case of a nuclear war in South Asia. Modi’s hatred for Muslims in general and Pakistan in particular, is an open secret. His desire to coerce Pakistan into submission might sell good in his political constituency, but is actually far from reality. As highlighted by Colin Gray, “A nuclear state is a state which no one wants to make desperate.” No rational actor would pursue that kind of approach.
    The only way to achieve peace in South Asia is through meaningful dialogue with definitive timelines. The mantra of talks is now over six decades old, with no tangible outcomes. Pakistan has already extended a hand for the initiation of dialogue to which Mr. Modi should respond positively. But even if he shreds this opportunity away, there is still no way to claim a conclusive victory over Pakistan. India lost that edge in May 1998, after the nuclearization of the region. Nuclear weapons are a fait accompli in South Asia and India will have to live with it.”

    The writer holds an M Phil degree in Strategic & Nuclear Studies from NDU Islamabad and is co-author of the book Iran and the Bomb: Nuclear Club Busted.

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