Voices this Week – India-Pakistan Relations

Voices this Week draws together published material on an important strategic issue in South Asia.  This week highlights analysis on Indian foreign policy – in particular regarding the future of India-Pakistan relations – under the leadership of Prime-Minister-elect Narendra Modi.

Brookings’ Tanvi Madan writes on “A Modi Foreign Policy: The Knowns and Unknowns,” beginning with a caveat that “first and foremost, it is important to say that there is a lot we don’t know…. [and that] the structural and ideological basis of Indian foreign policy and the existence of a permanent bureaucracy mean that there will be continuity in many areas.”

She terms the future of India-Pakistan relations as:

“perhaps the biggest wild card. It is not known whether Modi will essentially take the line that India needs stability in its neighborhood to ensure economic growth and development, which is the primary and perhaps sole objective for which he will have a clear public mandate…. There’s a possibility that Modi will take a more hawkish line instead. This is especially likely if, in the first six months or so of his government, there is a major terrorist attack in India or on Indians abroad that can be traced to elements in Pakistan.”

Two pieces in The Hindu assess the Prime Minister-elect’s invitation to regional leaders to attend his swearing-in ceremony on Monday. An editorial presents three messages the invitations send to three distinct audiences: Pakistan, the region, and domestic audiences. The piece asserts that “while dressed up as an outreach to all SAARC leaders, the invitation was clearly meant primarily for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan,” in part as an olive branch, but also as “an assertion that Pakistan now has to deal with a powerful new leader in New Delhi with a decisive mandate, and that the onus is now on Pakistan to show that it wants friendly ties.” The piece continues:

“The second clear message is to South Asia and the larger region, including China, that under the new leadership India intends to be proactively engaged with the region and… will not let the initiative slip from New Delhi’s hands, whether in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Nepal. The third message is meant for regional parties in Tamil Nadu and in West Bengal that, allies or not, they can no longer dictate terms on foreign policy.” 

In an op-ed in the same paper, Suhasini Haidar contends:

“By inviting the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) leaders to his swearing-in ceremony, Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi has sent out a powerful message on foreign policy. After an electoral campaign where “Candidate” Modi had made several disquieting statements about the region — from criticising Bangladesh for its treatment of the Hindu minority and on illegal immigrants, to threatening Pakistan over the export of terror and firing at the Line of Control (LoC), it would seem as if Prime Minister-designate Modi wants to start on a fresh page. After all, the irony would be lost on none; that after criticising caretaker Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for “serving biryani to the former Pakistan PM,” Mr. Modi will now preside over his first banquet in office to which he has invited the Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. To then give the South Asian neighbourhood such importance right at the start of his term is indeed a significant step.”


Image: Raveendran-AFP, Getty


Posted in , Foreign Policy, India, India-Pakistan Relations, leadership, Pakistan, Voices this Week

Julia Thompson

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2 thoughts on “Voices this Week – India-Pakistan Relations

  1. Good governance and development are the planks on which the Modi led BJP marched to power. All of South Asia could do a lot better on the same criteria. Modi can make many dramatic moves to unsettle old equations, even promise duty free access to neighbors which can dramatically boost their Economies. He can well guarantee the territorial integrity of neighbors, enabling them to free precious resources for development activity, which too he could underwrite. The days of passive Foreign Policy may be coming to an end. He could invite leaders in the region to join him in lifting millions out of poverty through close cooperation, may be even with monetary incentives. China has already reacted very positively to the elevation of Modi, likening him to Nixon. He already has a very good rapport with Abe and some understanding too, they having promised to divert manufacturing from China into the Indian hinterland.
    In a sluggish global Economy with few opportunities, Indian infrastructure alone needs investment in Trillions of Dollars, which has countries and corporations salivating. Defense spending could also get ramped up, which would make the Americans, Russians and Europeans quite happy. Modi is a man who knows not just the spelling but also the meaning of the word LEVERAGE, he will carry a lollipop in his pocket for all who come to visit him. Modi comes into office with a reputation and ability to deliver on every promise, in a world full of uncertainty it is a welcome blessing.
    With Modi coming to power Pakistan has to quickly revise its foreign policy and security doctrine. Pleading innocence about sponsored attacks by its proxies and non State actors like Mumbai 26/11, simply will not work. To imagine India will part with even a square inch of its territory, will be living in delusion. The only viable option open to it is to forget the past and move on to open a new chapter. When the world is keen to jump onto the lucrative Modi bandwagon, it is meaningless to become isolated. Jump on to the gravy train is my suggestion, since fake honour cannot feed my family, neither will isolation. Modi today is probably the most powerful man on earth with sweeping powers under the Indian Constitution. Once in power nobody has been able to dislodge Modi democratically, such has been his performance. I would rather have him as my friend, rather than opponent. Good Luck !

  2. I think time would decide that how much we earned. There are lots of issues which the new government needs to address despite of towing the old animosity towards the neighbors. India is confronted with lots of socio economic predicaments which needs an immediate attention. Country has lot more to do than foreign and defence policies. Human security issues should be paramount importance than anything else. India constitutes the 41% of global hunger than what left else of the highest importance.

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