Of injuries and insults & India-Pakistan Relations

“The arrival of a highly motivated Indian government offers a new chance to improve bilateral relations and avoid another nuclear-tinged crisis on the subcontinent.” ~ Michael Krepon

In his recent article titled “Pakistan’s Choice,” Michael Krepon highlights how the Pakistani military is not on the same page with the civilian government on the issue of Pakistan’s relations with India. The article explains how the country has been failing for a long time and continues downward with an even greater “resiliency.” Krepon identifies various remedies for this downward spiral, all of which rest on Pakistan’s improved relations with India. He also argues the need for the civil and military establishments to begin seeing eye to eye on important issues.  Incidentally a recent event highlighted this gap existing between the civil and military.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision to attend BJP leader and Indian Prime Minister Narender Modi’s inauguration ceremony in Delhi was not very well received in Pakistan. Critics were quick to point out how hardliners (read military establishment) in Pakistan were opposed to Nawaz Sharif’s visit and how he heroically “fought” them off to confirm his visit. The opposition can be attributed partly to Modi’s election campaign, which was characterized by severe criticism of the Congress for engaging with Pakistan and openly threatening Pakistan too. His invitation to his Pakistani counterpart therefore came as a big surprise.  Both the invitation and the decision to accept were publicized as equally “bold” moves. On the eve of his departure to Delhi PM Sharif even announced the release of 151 prisoners as a gesture of goodwill.

Notwithstanding the merits of Modi’s invitation BJP’s oldest ally, Shiv Sena sharply criticized Modi’s invitation to Sharif. The RSS believes India must not deal with Pakistan unless violence along the border stops. However, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray announced his decision to attend despite it being “difficult to trust Pakistan.” Shiv Sena is the second largest constituent of the NDA and was in a “bind about attending the ceremony” due to its strong anti-Pakistan sentiment.  The Shiv Sena was even against Indo-Pakistan cricket ties. It however refrained from making this an issue ahead of cabinet formation.  According to a senior BJP leader, “The Shiv Sena decided not to offend Mr Modi at this crucial juncture. They would have risked being excluded from the Union Cabinet. It was conveyed to them that the BJP would not have taken kindly to their absence. So they decided to look at the larger picture.” Seemingly Shiv Sena’s decision to “ look at the larger picture” was soon swayed by its even greater anti-Pakistan sentiment:

“Till now only India has tried to forget the past and extend the hand of friendship towards Pakistan. It is difficult to have faith in Pakistan. Since we have faith in Mr Modi’s strong leadership, we don’t want to obstruct this. But if after all this, Pakistan’s tail remains crooked, then Modi will have to press the nuclear button in his hand.”

Such remarks by India’s civilian leadership will only serve to strengthen the sentiments of hardliners in Pakistan- after all nuclear decision making in the country rests with its civilian leadership. Evidently on the issue of its relations with Pakistan, India’s civilian government is not entirely on the same page either.  If Pakistan’s civil military relations are a “hard case”, India’s civilian-civilian relations are even harder!


Image: Narendra Modi, Flickr

Posted in , Civil-Military Relations, Elections, India, India-Pakistan Relations, leadership, Nuclear, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan

Amina Afzal

Amina Afzal is a Canada based researcher. She holds an MA in Non Proliferation and Terrorism Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and a Masters in Defence & Strategic Studies from Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad. She has more than ten years of experience working at various Pakistani think tanks.

Read more

Continue Reading

Stay informed Sign up to our newsletter below

3 thoughts on “Of injuries and insults & India-Pakistan Relations

  1. Amina:
    Both Pakistan and India have vigorous domestic debates. Both countries have optimists and skeptics about the possibility of improved relations. It will be very hard for both governments to engineer improved relations — even with their electoral successes.

    I argue for improved relations and significantly increased trade between India and Pakistan because I do not think that Pakistan can be stronger without a stronger economy, and a stronger economy for Pakistan is not possible without substantial direct trade with Pakistan’s biggest neighbor.


  2. MK, Thank you for your insightful comments. I agree with you completely on both the issue of civil-military relations in Pakistan and also trade with India. About the former- addressing the gap would serve Pakistan’s own interest. Trade with India will undoubtedly go a long way in making Pakistan’s economy stronger while contributing positively towards a better relationship with our eastern neighbor. My first article for this blog argues that trade between India and Pakistan is necessary to ensure mutually assured stability in South Asia.

    I also agree that vigorous domestic debates exist in both countries and that it will be difficult for both sides to create better relations with the other. For example Pakistani decision makers have thus far been unable to reach consensus on according MFN status to India . the PM’s decision to go to India is another more recent example. However Indian political parties have gone a step further. If Shiv Sena is against even cricket ties with Pakistan do you believe they will be willing to talk trade? The attitude of hardliners in India’s newly elected civilian government makes me ever more skeptical about the prospect of peace between the two nations.

  3. There are indeed very many genuine grievances on both side of the border. Nevertheless, there are equally many grounds for common working and understanding. Both the country inhabit almost one-fifth of the world population and the leadership inside and across the border needs to decipher this point. Viable Pak-India relations, I believe, will go a long way for the prosperity of our people in particular and for all in general.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *