The history of India’s relations with Pakistan, a country carved out of its territory by the British Raj explicitly on the basis of religion, has been marked by wishful thinking on a Himalayan scale. Among the worst examples of this is the 1972 Simla Agreement. The mere word of Pakistan Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto was accepted by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on the Line of Control in Kashmir effectively being accepted as the international border between the two countries. Such credulity was despite the toxic rhetoric of Bhutto since his period in office as Foreign Minister under Field Marshal Ayub Khan, and the hundreds of viscerally anti-India rants that became a Bhutto trademark. Soon after he seized power in a military coup, General Pervez Musharraf was conferred respectability to the coupmaster by inviting him as an honoured guest to Agra in 2001. Of course, the gesture remained fruitless. There is a theory within the Lutyens Zone that successive Prime Ministers of India have given chance after chance, concession upon concession, to Pakistan’s leaders because of their obsession with being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. If this is true, it represents a quest for Fool’s Gold, as Pakistan will not change its all-weather hostility to India until it becomes a normal state in which the military remains in the barracks and not in control of the elected government. What needs to be done by India is to provide moral and diplomatic support to the suffering people of Pakistan, a huge mass of individuals that include Baloch, Sindhis, Pashtuns, Hindus, Christians, Shia and moderate Sunnis. A beginning has been made in this direction, most notably in the case of the oppressed Baloch population, and such an initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to be widened to other oppressed groups and strengthened, so that the people of Pakistan gain the oxygen needed to overcome the stifling overlordship of those who drain the nation’s wealth for the benefit of the military and its auxiliaries. PM Modi has chosen BJP President Amit Shah as the Union Home Minister, thereby seeing that his staunch supporter and proven political administrator take over the position once held by the Iron Man of India, Sardar Patel, who as Home Minister unified India with the help of capable officials such as States Secretary V.P. Menon.
With the carefully chosen S. Jaishankar as Minister of External Affairs, the MEA is fully in sync with the policy of tempered but firm realism that is the mark of PM Modi’s diplomacy towards a country that has been waging war—sometimes even conventional—against India since the very first weeks after its formation on 14 August 1947. The MEA wasted little time in calling out the bluff of Pakistan that India in the form of a letter by PM Modi to PM Imran Khan had called for a resumption of dialogue between the two sides. This report from the Pakistan side created a certain degree of confusion in India, as there has so far been no indication that the Pakistan army has permitted its nominee Imran Khan to make any gestures to India that are other than cosmetic. The unfortunate Kulbhushan Jadhav remains in prison in Pakistan, facing a possible death penalty, on a trumped up charge of espionage. Terror attacks by proxies of the ISI continue in Kashmir, with our valiant men and women in uniform often paying with their lives for such perfidy. In forum after forum, the concentration of effort by Pakistan has been to seek to compress the achievements of India and slow down its progress. In such a context, PM Modi showed considerable courage in brushing aside domestic and foreign pressure at the SCO summit. The Prime Minister correctly declined to have a bilateral meeting with Imran Khan, aware that such a get-together would be nothing more than a photo opportunity that would be used by the military’s favourite politician in Pakistan to burnish his PR credentials in the US and in Europe, two locations that the Pakistan military hopes will be charmed by the former cricket captain, who admittedly has charmed more than a few people during his visits to India. The stand taken by Modi 2.0 is that Pakistan should ensure that measures that are more than cosmetic should be implemented before a Modi-Khan meeting takes place. This is a welcome change from the trusting and indeed hopelessly credulous confidence in some of his predecessors that flowery language means anything other than an attempt to camouflage the harsh reality of the Pakistan military being unrelenting in its drive to weaken and destabilise India. The MEA has shown refreshing candour in characterising reports in the Pakistan media (that PM Modi had opened the door to talks with Imran Khan) as “fake”. Sometimes, telling it as it is, bluntly and without any nuance, is the most effective form of diplomacy. Pakistan under Imran Khan and his controllers in GHQ needs to abandon its fixation with doing harm to India, including by snatching what was left of Kashmir after the premature1948 ceasefire. Should it do so, the people of Pakistan would be the gainers. Both India and Pakistan should live in peace and cooperate. However, this can happen only if there is a fundamental change in GHQ policy. This is the message that has been conveyed by Modi 2.0 to Khan 1.0.