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India's Pakistan Policy Under Modi 3.0: Anticipating Shifts and Reactions

CC BY 2.0 / Tore Urnes / Flags of India and PakistanFlags of India and Pakistan
Flags of India and Pakistan - Sputnik India, 1920, 13.06.2024
After the recent general election in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for his third term. Sputnik talked to experts to analyze the dynamics and expected changes that a "Modi 3.0" era might hold for India-Pakistan relations.
Pakistan and India are neighbouring nuclear-armed rivals but have a long-standing conflict, including three wars, primarily over the disputed territory of Kashmir, cross-border terrorism, and militancy.
India's abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status and its division into two federally administered territories in 2019 further exacerbated tensions between the two nations.
Pakistan expressed reservations and grievances over India's actions in Kashmir, which it views as a violation of the region's autonomy. It also accused New Delhi of supporting militant groups and creating proxy conflicts.
However, India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar expressed the government's commitment to finding an effective roadmap to solving the longstanding cross-border dispute, indicating a determination to address this cause of disagreement this time.

Modi's 3.0, Neighbourhood First Policy & Pakistan

In the meantime, many ask: how could India materialize other dreams such as becoming the world's third-largest economy if it failed to resolve historical conflicts and clashes with its neighbors?
In this light, Dr. Rishi Gupta, assistant director at the Asia Society Policy Institute in New Delhi, told Sputnik India that the responsibility for improving relations with India falls on Pakistan.

"Modi's 3.0 will continue to prioritize the 'Neighbourhood First Policy,' but this may not apply to Pakistan due to its ongoing role in cross-border terrorism in India. India has been a victim of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism for decades and has consistently stated that there can be no talks while these activities continue. The onus is on Pakistan to improve ties with India. However, the establishment seems unwilling to end terrorism, leaving little scope for a fresh start with India," Gupta noted.

Similarly, journalist and political analyst Tawqeer Hussain Sheikh, believes that the deficit of trust between the two countries is one of the prime issues to solve. Despite a recent statement from former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif admitting to breaching the 1999 Lahore Declaration with India, which hints at a potential shift in stance, the move is unlikely to revive any dialogue between the two nations at present, he assumed.

"Regarding Prime Minister Modi's approach, it appears that he has effectively marginalized Pakistan, redirecting diplomatic efforts towards other priorities, such as the Indo-Pacific region. Previously, India's significant portion of diplomatic resources were going to address issues with Pakistan. This trend is expected to persist, with India likely to maintain its focus on diversifying its diplomatic engagements beyond the Pakistan-centric discourse," Sheikh claimed during a conversation with Sputnik India.

Meanwhile, researcher and geo-political analyst Mohammad Ali Zafar told Sputnik that given the failure of Modi's ambitious slogan, "abki baar 400 paar," which means to win 400 seats, and a strong opposition showing in the elections, the relationship between the neighbours is likely to remain the same.

"Historically, Modi's tenure has seen a hardline stance on Pakistan, characterized by strong rhetoric and decisive actions, particularly in response to cross-border terrorism and regional security concerns. However, we cannot ignore the possibility of an assertive policy, as Modi could leverage nationalist sentiments within India to strengthen the legitimacy of his government," Zafar underscored.

Indo-Pak Conundrum: Cross-Border Terrorism and the Kashmir Dispute

Both states maintain a strict stance, holding each other accountable for unfavorable developments related to Kashmir, Khalistan, Balochistan, and cross-border terrorism in their respective regions.
Tawqeer Sheikh noted that the relationship between the two nations has become increasingly intricate since 2019, marked by the absence of high commissioners in each other's countries and a noticeable decline in engagements between them. Until there is substantial evidence of Pakistan taking decisive action against terrorism, India is unlikely to pursue talks with it due to the unwavering steadfast adherence to the principle that dialogue and terrorism cannot coexist.
Meantime, Zafar suggests that the principal position that Pakistan sponsors terrorism in India will remain at the forefront of Modi administration's stance towards its neighbour.

"India views that regional peace and security are not achievable unless the region turns into an environment free of terror activities. This is followed by efforts to diplomatically isolate Pakistan, further mocking the nation's economic situation through media narrative, leading to showcasing the country as a failed state. These will remain the major contours of Modi’s policy towards Pakistan in his third term," he stressed.

Similarly, geo-political expert and South Asian analyst, Tanmoy Ibrahim, shared with Sputnik in an interview that relations between the two nations have relatively less chances of stabilization under Modi 3.0. One of the main reasons behind that is that "India does not require Pakistan in its geopolitical scheme" ever since Islamabad has cut trade ties following the abrogation of the controversial Section 370 from the Indian Constitution in Aug 2019, according to him.

"The sustenance of tension underneath the surface, despite sharing platforms like SCO, is quite imperative for Mr. Modi whose party could not gain an absolute majority this time, as it will help polarize the voters using jingoistic rhetoric before elections and sweep them. So there will be very less changes in the Indo-Pak relations unless there is an external factor's strong influence," the pundit underlined.

Expanding Regional Engagement Beyond the Pakistan-Centric Discourse

However, according to Naad-e-Ali Sulehria, a German-based analyst on South Asian politics, since India has already signed a 10-year treaty with Iran to operate Chahbahar port, Modi's government will pose a great strategic challenge to Pakistan, which has security concerns, especially since a wave of terrorism emanating from Iranian borders. Hence, the possibility of normalization of ties between the two neighbors would become more difficult to anticipate, the pundit noted.

"Modi's nationalistic ideology does not allow him to have a soft stance on Pakistan. He might have improved ties with PM Shehbaz but with Gen. Munir he is reluctant to take that chance. Modi might wait to see whether Gen. Munir gets an extension next year or not," Sulehria highlighted in a conversation with Sputnik.

He further underscored that the trust deficit in security cooperation between them spreads into other domains too, including the much-needed trade and climate-related cooperation. The policies of both states toward each other may become harsher unless there is an intervention from US and Gulf nations, he claimed. Yet, given that these countries focus on the Israel-Gaza issue, the Pak-India dispute may remain on the back burner internationally, the expert asserted.
At the same time, Dr. Aparaajita Pandey, a professor, political analyst and strategist, explained that the major thrust of Modi's newly formed administration is going to be the economy, the Indo-Pacific, containment of China, and the growth of the country as a global manufacturing hub, while policy towards Pakistan may remain almost unchanged.

"India hopes that Pakistan finds the political stability it needs for the sake of peace and security of its people. Now we have minimal engagement with Pakistan and welcome gestures of peace," Pandey told Sputnik India.

In the same way, Ibrahim expressed that while Modi remains in power, there is no room for changing foreign policy, especially toward Pakistan, as for India, the country has no economic offerings, unlike China, with which its bilateral trade is increasing despite border tensions.

"The key points India will continue to pursue are isolating Pakistan for its alleged support to "cross-border terrorism," an obstinate approach on the water issue and Jammu and Kashmir, and continuation of India's policy to promote the people's demand for a free Balochistan and highlighting alleged human rights violations by Pakistani forces in Pakistan-occupied parts of the disputed territory," he emphasised.

Meanwhile, recently, at least ten Hindu Pilgrims, including a child, were killed in a terrorist attack on a bus in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir, administered by India, on 9 June. Thereupon, one of the Union Minister Athawale Ramdas Bandu said while talking with The Times of India: “If such incidents keep happening, India will have to start a war against Pakistan.”
Flags of India and Pakistan - Sputnik India, 1920, 03.04.2024
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