Indo-Pak relations are taking a dip as tensions
When Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister of India in May 2014
and invited his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to the swearing-in
ceremony, it seemed as if India and Pakistan were turning over a new
leaf and the peoples of the two countries could expect an era of peace
and fruitful interaction. It seemed as if Hindutva hardliner Modi,
carrying the baggage of the 2002 massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, could
turn out to be a dove of peace.
Pakistani Rangers (in black) goosestep at the Wagah border
with India in front of Indian military border guards. Its
part of a 30 minute ritual show of force and bluster that
happens every evening of the year. In the background are
hundreds of Indians and tourists who have come to watch the
show. There are hundreds more on the Pakistani side as well.
But this was not to be. In a little more than a year after Modi
assumed office, India and Pakistan are at daggers drawn once again, with
the prospect of a complete break in ties.
With veiled encouragement from the Modi government,
anti-Pakistan/anti-Muslim activists in India are brazenly indulging in
an intemperate and violent campaign against visiting Pakistani artists
and writers, including former Foreign Minister Kurshid M.Kasuri.
They have revived the issue of beef eating to lynch a Muslim and beat
up Muslims who dared to eat beef openly. Hindutva gangs spear-headed by
the Mumbai-based Shiv Sena, have forced cancellation of talks between
the Indian and Pakistani Boards of Cricket. The Pakistan Board has now
said that the 2016 T20 series cannot be played in India because of
security concerns. Pakistan is also likely to cancel a proposal to buy
power from India.
Political analysts attribute these troubles to the bid by the Shiv
Sena to oust the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from the position
of being the pre-eminent Hindutva group in India. They also say that the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is using the Hindutva plank to tell
the BJP and Modi that it cannot be overlooked while governing the
country and conducting relations with Pakistan. The Hindutva outfits
find the BJP and Modi to be wanting in commitment to Hindutva.
The BJP and Modi are caught in a cleft stick. On the one hand, they
have the responsibility of ruling a diverse multi-religious and
multi-cultural country, of ensuring its economic development and
interacting with the comity of nations in acceptable ways. On the other,
they cannot afford to defy the Hindutva ginger groups because they know
that the Hindus are their core constituency and that they will have to
have Hindutva as their Unique Selling Proposition (USP) in the electoral
Modi and the BJP have come to realize that in the absence other
credible claims, they cannot remain in power without Hindutva. Since
assuming charge in May 2014, the Modi government has slid in popularity.
It was swept to power on a wave of promises to deliver on all fronts
especially on the economic front, but none of the promises has been
kept. The BJP lost the Delhi State elections and is now believed to be
facing defeat in the Bihar State elections. The BJP-led central Indian
government is blamed for the country-wide rise in the price of 'dhal' -
the poor man's protein. Pulled in different directions by competing
considerations, the BJP and Modi have chosen to maintain silence, and
allow matters to drift. But the drift has caused dismay among the
Muslims, other religious minorities and the liberals in India, and
generated fears in Pakistan about New Delhi becoming belligerent to
cover up its domestic failures.
Meanwhile, Islamabad has also been pushing it to the brink by backing
out of the Accord between Modi and Nawaz Sharif at the Russian city of
Ufa in early July 2015. India says that according to the Ufa accord, the
two sides should talk primarily about curbing Pakistan-sponsored cross
border terrorism and not the Kashmir dispute. But Pakistan says that
talks on Kashmir were implied in the accord when it said that "all
outstanding issues" would be discussed.
Pakistan's domestic compulsions
Facing flak at home and criticism from Army Chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif,
for entering into the accord in Ufa in which Kashmir was not even
mentioned, Nawaz Sharif had to take a tough posture, vis-à-vis India.
He knew that if the people and the army felt that he was being soft
on Kashmir and India, he would lose power. In tune with the new stance,
Pakistan stepped up cross border terrorist acts by July end. The border
town of Gurdaspur was attacked resulting in the death of seven
In August, Security Forces' convoy was attacked in Udhampur in Jammu
district. However, despite these, the National Security Advisors (NSAs)
of the countries decided to hold talks in New Delhi in August as per the
Ufa accord. But when Pakistan insisted on talking to the Indian Kashmiri
separatists ahead of the talks, India called off the talks. India said
that as per the Ufa accord, the subject of discussion should be cross
border terrorism and not Kashmir. And, as per the Shimla Accord of 1972,
there was no place for a third party (including Kashmiri separatists) in
any India-Pakistan talks on Kashmir. But Pakistan argued that the Ufa
accord did not preclude discussion of Kashmir though it did not
specifically say so.
It also argued that Kashmiris are not a third or foreign party but an
indigenous stakeholder. It also said that the separatists are the
genuine representatives of the Kashmir not the elected representatives
who were dubbed Indian collaborators. Pakistan has also been refusing to
hand over the alleged masterminds behind the 2008 Mumbai serial blasts.
This has been a major Indian grouse against Pakistan and a reason for
trying to get it designated as a "terrorist state."
Nawaz Sharif made Kashmir the burden of his recent speech at the UN
General Assembly and took up the issue with the US Government too.
Islamabad accused India of fomenting separatist terrorism in Baluchistan,
and the Pakistani media quoted intelligence sources to say that India is
planning to assassinate Sharif. An equally belligerent India publicly
declared that it supports the Baluch liberation movement.