Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has broken with the precedent set by successive Prime Ministers of talking to Pakistan on the terms set by Islamabad. Inder Kumar Gujral freed Pakistan of any efforts at reciprocity for concessions made by India when he articulated and implemented the “Gujral Doctrine” of unilateral concessions, all of which were made by New Delhi, of course. Worse, a policy introduced by 1977-79 Prime Minister Morarji Desai, of unconditionally scaling back covert activities and capabilities in Pakistan, was revived during the period when a Congress-backed government led by I.K. Gujral was put in charge of the country. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee gave respectability to coup artist and ex-general (because he was legally divested of his job by then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif) Pervez Musharraf, despite the shabby record of betrayal at Kargil of that ambitious politician dressed in combat fatigues. As for Manmohan Singh, from the start of his term, it became clear that he was filled with sentimentality about the home he had left behind in Pakistan, which is why he ensured the exit of M.K. Narayanan as National Security Advisor and his replacement by an emollient former Foreign Secretary, Shivshankar Menon, whose role in the Sharm el Sheikh fiasco will not be forgotten. Of course, none of this compares in scale to the disaster that unfolded in the talks between Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi at Shimla in 1972. The Pakistan Premier, to his credit, had never hidden his visceral hatred for India. Despite a record of venom against India covering more than three decades of public life in the case of Bhutto, Indira Gandhi saw fit to trust in his effusive promises and unconditionally free the 93,000 prisoners of war that were captured in Bangladesh after the surrender at Dhaka of General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi. More shameful still, Indira Gandhi refused the request of the newly empowered leaders of the globe’s newest country, which was to place on trial the perpetrators of the more egregious acts of genocide committed against the population of then East Pakistan by the Pakistan army. The butchers, rapists and looters of the defeated army were sent home in freedom. Land that had been captured in West Pakistan was handed back. This was done without securing any of India’s objectives, such as at the least the recognition of the Line of Control as the international boundary. The Bhutto charm ensured that the Pakistan army (which later killed him, having understood that he had outlived his utility to them) won in the negotiating table in Shimla, even while having lost comprehensively to India on the field of battle, to cheers from the likes of Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai.
After what was clearly a period of experimentation designed to test the bona fides of Pakistan, Prime Minister Modi has set parameters for India-Pakistan relations that would be welcomed by any citizen of this country who cares for the prestige and credibility of India. Certainly, India is willing to enter into talks with Pakistan, but only if these be on the subject of terror emanating from that country, and also the withdrawal of the Pakistan army from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Not content with its own role in enslaving the population of that corner of the subcontinent, Pakistan has permitted armed state-backed units from China to enter PoK and march jointly with them, clearly with the intention of telegraphing to Delhi that it will have to confront not only Pakistan but China in any future conflict. Hopefully, President Xi Jinping will succeed in neutralising the influence of pro-Pakistan elements in the PRC’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the armed forces. The Prime Minister has responded to this threat with defiance, and has publicly called for the return of PoK to India, besides demanding that Pakistan treat the Baloch people with respect. Such firmness needs to become the norm in relations between the two neighbours. In particular, Pakistan must be held to talks on the issue of terror emanating from Pakistan.