These are precarious times for the Indian state which is left fending off unimpeded advances, militarily from Pakistan and diplomatically from an assertive China. While PM Modi’s tenure has seen Indian foreign policy acquire a renewed vigour and dynamism, it’s failings in dealing with Pakistan are becoming all too apparent now, evidenced by the current spate of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LOC) as also, the attack waged by militants on the Sunjuwan military station in Jammu on February 10, 2018.
While pointing out the shortcomings in India’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Pakistan, it is important not to discount its multiple attempts at effecting a reversal in the deplorable status quo through friendly overtures made by the PM himself in the initial years of his tenure towards his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif though, like many of his predecessors failed to neutralise the sinister attempts being harboured by terrorist outfits in collusion with the Pakistan Army and the ISI which over the years, have based themselves on the premise of loathing India.
Post the Uri and Pathankot attacks, the Indian Army’s surgical strikes served to refurbish the image of the Indian state amongst the masses who for decades had been wallowing in anguish when faced with the meekness of the Indian state in dealing with Pakistan which has often gone rogue.
Eighteen months hence and the relations between the two countries are back to square one, if not even worse than before. While the surgical strikes paid rich electoral dividends and upheld Modi’s ‘strongman’ image, the BJP has reason to be wary of the current situation which if not tackled effectively, can showcase its ripple effects in next year’s general elections. Amidst calls for a resumption of dialogue between the two nations, the futility of the same lies in plain sight.
Politically, Pakistan is in flux, which going by its standards is saying a lot. Following the unseating of Nawaz Sharif over corruption charges, his party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has been merely biding its time with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi taking charge as the interim Prime Minister until the next general elections in the country.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army exercises its free hand over the country’s foreign policy like never before. Lasting political solutions can’t be brought about by interim governments. Hence, India’s best interests lie in Pakistan electing a government which then gains substantial leverage over its army and not the other way around for
Pakistan will change only when its government and army are in consonance. The current interim government fares poorly on this account. Therefore, resumption of talks will be most impactful when attempted with a new leadership assuming charge in Islamabad.
The troubles of the Indian state in dealing with a rogue Pakistan are further mounted with the nagging worry of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into the wrong hands. This perceived irrationality of the neighbour acts as the main deterrence against India mounting up its military aggression, barring isolated incidents such as the surgical strikes. Further, the fact that Pakistan continues to be propped up by its all-weather friend China which continually wades in at India’s eastern front. These are indeed testing times for India.
While India’s foreign policy agenda of ‘Look East’ and ‘Look West’ holds a lot of promise as evidenced by the enhanced engagement with countries in the Middle East and South-East Asia, it is finding itself increasingly isolated in its neighbourhood owing to the China-Pakistan juggernaut rearing its head. The risks are aplenty, but the options are few. Perhaps, the best that India can do is bide its time.