India’s Pakistani policy in many colors

The elderly politician and former diplomat Mani Shankar Aiyar recently made some statements that Prime Minister Narendra Modi used to attempt to prove that the Congress has always had a cautious, if not cowardly, stance on Pakistan. The remarks that Aiyar made were taken from an 83-minute interview that he had with a video station last month.

He discussed his opinions on India-Pakistan ties in great detail throughout the interview and expressed disapproval of the Modi administration’s policy toward Pakistan. Aiyar may have refrained from making a clear allusion to strategic armaments. That may have prevented political ammo for PM Modi and spared the Congress humiliation. If Aiyar hadn’t made these mistakes, he wouldn’t be Aiyar.

At an Odisha election rally on May 11, Modi said, without mentioning Aiyar, that “Congress people” were trying to undermine the nation’s trust by instilling dread over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Those who claimed that Pakistan had atomic weapons were ignorant of the fact that the country could not “handle” them and were trying to sell them since no one was interested in buying them, he said. After that, Modi turned his guns on the Congress’ ‘poor’ response to terrorism that was funded by Pakistan. Other BJP officials criticized the Congress for constantly being mild on Pakistan, following Modi’s example. The Congress, for its part, disassociated itself from Aiyar’s statements.

According to Pawan Khera, the party’s spokeswoman, Aiyar didn’t “speak” for the Congress in “any capacity whatsoever.” He continued by recalling that in December 1971, Pakistan had been divided into two halves. This was clearly an allusion to the way that Pakistan’s army had launched a genocide in what was then East Pakistan, and how that country had handled the war that Pakistan had imposed on India. Khera also brought up India’s 1974 “peaceful nuclear explosion,” which was carried out under Indira’s leadership.

The BJP has made an effort to get the Congress to respond strongly to its accusations of nationalism since the commencement of the first round of elections on April 19. This idea is further shown by bringing up Aiyar’s comments, which are irrelevant to politics right now. Still, the Congress has generally avoided the matter—possibly wisely. Its senior officials have declined to discuss terrorism or even India’s strategy toward Pakistan with Modi. They have remained focused on drawing attention to economic issues, including rising income inequality and unemployment. They have also emphasized the “threat” that the BJP’s continued dominance poses to the Constitution.

It is acceptable for the BJP to criticize the Congress’ foreign policy towards Pakistan in the run-up to the elections. The Congress has the same right to reply to the BJP’s accusations whatever it pleases. This is a component of the electioneering maneuver. Top political figures, both within and outside the government, should nonetheless, in this case, exhibit caution and responsibility when it comes to matters of strategy. These issues are much too delicate to be included in the rough and tumble of political campaigns. It is a well-documented fact that political figures, regardless of their political affiliations, have made distinct contributions to India’s security, including the advancement of the nation’s strategic assets. In the midst of intense political campaigns, this is an important consideration.

Regarding Aiyar, he has always supported an unbroken line of communication between Pakistan and India. Those who support this strategy fail to acknowledge the fact that no Indian administration has ever been able to politically maintain a bilateral dialogue process after a terror incident with Pakistani connections that was deemed unacceptable. Therefore, it is accurate to believe that panic and conversation do not mix.

Aiyar’s recollection of Modi’s Pakistan policy was selective during the conversation and in a newspaper piece that followed the issue. In fact, one might argue that Modi’s involvement with Pakistan came at a political cost. During their meeting in July 2015 in Ufa, Russia, on the fringes of the SCO summit, Modi and his then-opposite Nawaz Sharif determined that their National Security Advisors (NSAs) would meet to address terrorism and related concerns. The J&K problem was not mentioned in the Ufa joint statement. Generals in Pakistan responded angrily. Modi showed some flexibility in the following months, allowing the statement to be revoked when he let the NSAs and Foreign Secretaries to meet in Bangkok in December to discuss a variety of topics, including the restart of the India-Pakistan conversation.

Sushma Swaraj, the minister of external affairs, traveled to Islamabad for a multilateral discussion on Afghanistan two days after the Bangkok summit. In the margins, Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz decided to start the Comprehensive Bilateral interaction—a comprehensive process of bilateral interaction. Following these two talks, Modi made a quick trip to Lahore. But the Pakistani generals did not want this conflict to continue, so they planned the terror assault on the Pathankot airfield in January 2016. But Modi made an effort to keep the conversation going.

He even went so far as to let a Pakistani delegation, including an ISI official, to go to India, specifically to the airfield at Pathankot. Modi’s strategy didn’t alter until after the September 2016 terror assault in Uri. He did not, however, sever relations. Indeed, there were rumors of a thaw in the bilateral ties when Imran Khan was elected prime minister of Pakistan in 2018.

The Pulwama terror incident in February 2019 and the J&K constitutional amendments in August of the same year were what severed the relations. After the modifications, Pakistan did in fact decrease its relations with India. Since then, it has said that unless India overturns the J&K rulings, a dialogue process cannot start. Therefore, Aiyar would do well to focus on the absurdity of Pakistan’s present strategy against India, but he would never do so.

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