If he becomes PM, Pak policy will define his room for manoeuvre at home and abroad.
If the rednecks in the BJP want to banish the critics of Narendra Modi to Pakistan, the only ones going across the western border right now seem to be aides to the party’s prime ministerial candidate. A report published in the Sunday edition of The Hindu cited official sources in Islamabad to say that unnamed advisors of Modi had travelled recently to Pakistan to meet the leaders of the Muslim League, which runs the federal government as well as the provincial government in West Punjab.
As Pakistan-bashing gains some traction in the BJP’s election campaign, Modi has sought to calm the fears it has generated in the region and beyond. In his interview to ANI last week, Modi suggested that there would be no radical departures in India’s foreign policy, especially towards Pakistan, under a government led by him. He underlined, instead, the importance of engaging Pakistan and insisted that “anger” can’t be the basis for a policy towards our western neighbour.
If the reports that Modi has sent emissaries to Pakistan are true, they indicate a recognition of the need to reassure leaders across the border that, were he to become prime minister, he would not be throwing a grenade at the bilateral relationship. Equally important is Modi’s reported outreach to separatist leaders in Kashmir and his decision to clear the confusion on India’s nuclear policy created by the BJP manifesto.
The claims of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the hardline Hurriyat leader in Kashmir, about meeting Modi’s “emissaries” have been formally denied by the BJP. But it makes eminent political sense for Modi to suggest he is open to engaging everyone in Kashmir, including separatists, in his quest for peace in the state that has endured so much suffering.
Modi also appears to have understood the need to address the widespread international concern that a government led by him might abandon India’s traditional nuclear restraint and adopt the more risky approaches. If the BJP manifesto talked about revising the nuclear doctrine, Modi made it absolutely clear there was no question of changing India’s policy on the no first use of atomic weapons.
The government in Pakistan, like most others, has no problem in recognising that the BJP’s rhetoric during elections is not necessarily a reflection of the party’s policies when in government. Islamabad is putting out signals that it is eager to open a dialogue with the next government and is ready for formal political contact with it at the earliest. The deeply polarised Indian continued…