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Modi needs to treat Pakistan like a Test, not a T20 game

By Rajeev Sharma
April 16, 2016 10:13 IST
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Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif meet

IMAGE: Indian and Pakistan Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif at the SAARC Summit, Kathmandu, November 2014.

 

Modi has been wrong in thinking he can influence people and win friends in Pakistan through his high-octane brand of diplomacy.
That is why his Pakistan policy that started off on the high note of saree-and-shawl diplomacy now threatens to end with a whimper with cloak-and-dagger games, says Rajeev Sharma.

Indian leaders must understand that Pakistan floats like a butterfly, but stings like a bee. This is the key to understand Pakistan and warrants a slow grind approach much in Test cricket, not T20.

The Narendra Modi government faces acute embarrassment over its failed Pakistan policy and has put itself in a position wherein Pakistani envoy Abdul Basit has the temerity of announcing that the India-Pakistan peace process is 'suspended.'

The only way to deal with Pakistan is a two-stage cyclical process which will have to be played out inevitably -- governments after governments and generations after generations till the opportune time of substantive engagement comes.

The two-stage process is to keep Pakistan engaged in the labyrinthine of diplomacy which is high on symbolism and low on actual deliverables.

But that moment of substantive engagement is still a long way off. The Modi government is making the mistake of playing its political matches with Pakistan in the T20 format instead of like in Tests.

Manmohan Singh, prime minister of India for ten years and perceived to be a man of few words, emerges as the go-to man when it comes to the art of engaging with Pakistan. It was during his regime that India suffered its worst ever terror attack, its own 9/11, with the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008.

Dr Singh, who led a Congress-led coalition government, refused to engage with Pakistan till such time as it dropped its familiar card of using terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy.

So much so that during his two full tenures he did not visit two contiguous neighbours even once -- Pakistan and Nepal -- despite his best and sincere efforts to smoke the peace pipe with Pakistan.

Whenever Dr Singh got afflicted with the Pakistan itch, the results were always disastrous -- the Sharm-al-Sheikh agreement being a prime example.

Modi needs to learn from Dr Singh's experience of engaging with Pakistan. His policy is the need of the hour and there is no scope for event management diplomacy or a tendency to think that Pakistan can be 'managed.'

The only way to deal with Pakistan is to keep it 'engaged' diplomatically, keep pressure on Pakistan on the terror issue, and project to the international community that India is reaching out to it even if the truth is that nothing substantive is even being tried out to crack the ever-elusive intransigent neighbour.

This is what Dr Singh did for ten years and this is what Modi needs to understand and do vis a vis Pakistan.

There isn't and cannot be any other model of dealing with Pakistan. And what the Modi government has done for the last 22 months or so is just the opposite.

The Modi government's engagement with Pakistan has largely been episodic and an attempt to make it an event-based process rather than the copybook diplomatic style of engaging with the inimical neighbour through the tried and tested formula of labyrinthine diplomacy that keeps up the sham of engagement, but otherwise signifies nothing at the ground level.

Modi has rather been delusional in his engagement with Pakistan, thinking that he can influence people and win friends in Pakistan through his high-octane brand of diplomacy.

That is why his Pakistan policy that started off on the high note of saree-and-shawl diplomacy now threatens to end with a whimper with the cloak-and-dagger games being played by Pakistan in the aftermath of the terror attack on the Pathankot airbase.

Modi's penchant for dealing with Pakistan in an unorthodox, out-of-the-box way, has already cost the nation dear as it has helped Pakistan from transforming itself from a pariah country to a regional power which is now being increasingly wooed not only by its all-weather friend and ally like China and a 'frenemy' like the United States, but also by powers like Russia which had earlier kept Pakistan at an arms' length. Pakistan is now systematically being integrated into the international power matrix.

The Modi government committed a Himalayan blunder by inviting the Pakistani Joint Investigation Team to probe the Pathankot attack. The JIT had a member of the Inter Services Intelligence, the Pakistani intelligence agency which has been the fountainhead of terror activities against the Indian State for over three decades.

The Modi government's move to let the Pathankot terror attack be investigated by the ISI was like George Bush inviting Osama bin Laden to investigate the 9/11 terror attacks on American soil.

How irrational and myopic!

Rajeev Sharma is an independent journalist and strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha.

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