Prime Minister Narendra Modi has never hesitated to go the extra mile in his efforts to secure peace on the border. Whether it be with Pakistan or with China, the door has always been kept open for a settlement that respects the concerns of India while keeping in place the status quo. India seeks no extra territory, nor is the country willing to surrender any of the land that it holds, which itself has been diminished as a consequence of unprovoked aggression by two of its neighbours. In a clear message to the people of Pakistan that India seeks not a disintegrated but a prosperous Pakistan, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee even made a pilgrimage in 1999 to the spot that commemorates the principles behind the founding of a country that is based on religion as a source of division within the population. Such a gesture came from the desire of the first BJP Prime Minister of India to be the architect of a durable peace between the subcontinental neighbours together with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Sadly, the visit was followed by Kargil, when elements from the Pakistan military occupied places that had been vacated for the winter by the Indian side in the belief that Islamabad was sincere about peace. Whether the politicians who had formal power in Pakistan were interested in peace or not remains the subject of discussion, but what is clear is that the Pakistan military was loathe to resile from the only lever it had to extract resources from the people of Pakistan. This was the fable that India was intent on the occupation of Pakistan through force, and that the only way to prevent such a calamity from taking place was to pour money into the Army and in a smaller way, to the Navy and the Air Force. Of course, much of that expenditure found their way into the personal accounts of top military commanders and their friends and family. As for Nawaz Sharif, he was soon deposed by the military, and the real rulers of Pakistan, the Corps Commanders of the army, installed the dismissed Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf as the new CEO of Pakistan. Despite the fact that it was Musharraf who had engineered the Kargil betrayal, Prime Minister Vajpayee went out of his way to remove his status as an international pariah by inviting the military dictator of Pakistan to Agra for peace talks, which of course were fruitless. The relentless search for peace with Pakistan that characterised Vajpayee played a role in several BJP supporters staying home during the 2004 elections, thereby causing the government to lose its majority in the Lok Sabha polls.
AICC President Sonia Gandhi chose Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister, certain that he would be responsive to the directions given by her, which he was. Manmohan Singh unchained may have been a formidable leader, given the extraordinary range of talents of the mild-mannered professor of economics, but this was not to be. His own Council of Ministers ignored him, aware that the authority was in the hands of the “CP” (Congress President), as Sonia Gandhi was called within the upper echelons of the party she had long dominated and still does.
Seeking. to engage Pakistan in a search for peace that has long proved elusive if not illusory carries substantial political risk for Prime Minister Modi. The BJP’s improved performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls owes a lot to the boldness shown by Modi in approving the Balakot strike deep inside Pakistan. That solidified the image of the Prime Minister as a strong and decisive leader who would strain every sinew of his being to ensure the security of the 1.3 billion people of India from the depredations of Pakistan and its patron, the Peoples Republic of China. The need to escape the black list at the Financial Action Task Force meeting is what has resulted in the dovish and cooing noises being made even by elements in Pakistan who spend a considerable amount of time each day planning terror strikes against India.
It is clear from media reports that there is another effort that is ongoing for India to seek a modus vivendi with Pakistan. Such moves are despite the reality that the bounty showered on Pakistan by China is based on the former’s value as a means of containing India within South Asia and in constraining the country’s economic development so that it never poses a challenge to China. Sabotage of units and attacks on power grids are part of the armoury of tools used by the Sino-Pak alliance to hold back India from pushing forward with the ambitious program of reaching the goal of $5 trillion GDP by 2024. “Modi hai toh mumkin hai” is the cry, and the world is watching the performance of India in the economic sphere. Companies and countries anxious to decouple from the PRC are looking at India as an alternative, especially now that the Prime Minister has begun the process of simplifying laws and procedures to remove the arbitrariness and savage punishments of the past. Such provisions and their misuse by corrupt elements in the bureaucracy have long been impediments in the development of India, and the Prime Minister is moving at speed to abolish them. The fact that Modi is still willing to seek a peaceful settlement with Pakistan on outstanding issues shows the desire for peace of the Prime Minister. This reflects his admiration for Mahatma Gandhi, who all his life fought for peace and non-violence.