The Pakistan press has continued to analyse Narendra Modi’s victory and its implications for India, bilateral relations and matters of nationalism and religion in South Asia. In its June 1 editorial, Dawn weighs in on what Modi 2.0 could mean for Kashmir. The paper strikes an ominous tone — quite in keeping with its line and that of most media in Pakistan — on the Indian state’s role in Kashmir. It says that in its first term, the Modi government put in place a “brutal approach, with a militarised response to Kashmiris’ yearning for freedom and dignity. In fact, the radical Hindu BJP said it would end Kashmir’s special constitutional status, and remains committed to this dubious goal.”
It remarks that “the cycles of ugly violence” have become the norm in the Valley and unless New Delhi “comes up with a new approach, they will show no signs of abating”. Yet, the editorial ends with questions, that hint that there is as yet time for a course correction, though such hope remains slim: “Will the Indian prime minister continue with his hard-line approach, pushing Kashmiri youth to the wall and forcing them to fight the Indian state? Or will he display statesmanship and adopt a fresh approach to the troubled region? While those wishing to see peace prevail in South Asia will be hoping that Mr Modi picks the latter option, the reality may be more of the same. However, while the BJP’s suppression of the Kashmiri freedom struggle has resulted in the disillusionment of practically all Kashmiris with India, even some of Delhi’s most loyal supporters in the region — the Abdullah clan, Mehbooba Mufti etc — appear dismayed at the way the Hindu nationalists have treated Kashmir.”
M Bilal Lakhani, a Fulbright scholar and columnist, asks an important question in The Express Tribune, one which has become a common refrain in Pakistan: Is Narendra Modi India’s Zia-ul Haq? Lakhani begins his article by saying “Modi’s win is a loss for India.” He adds that “What Zia orchestrated in the 80s to use religion for the realisation of political goals Modi is engineering in India today. With one important nuance. The Pakistani people never elected Zia into office.”
This sentiment, which began to be articulated after the 2014 Indian general election, can be summarised as many in Pakistan viewing the overwhelming mandate for a Hindutva party as a vindication of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s two-nation theory. Lakhani points out two dangers of Modi’s political dominance in India. One: “It took 72 years but the Quaid-e-Azam’s Two-Nation theory has been decisively endorsed by the long arc of history. Forget my arguments, Narendra Modi is the only person ever to be denied a US visa based on a little-known law on religious freedom, even though he applied for a diplomatic visa as a sitting chief minister. This led to nearly a decade-long US travel ban imposed over his role in Gujarat’s anti-Muslim riots, which left thousands dead (the UK and several European nations had also slapped a de facto travel ban on Modi).”
And two: “what’s worse is that Modi is also the symptom of a far more dangerous problem; an Indian electorate at peace with war-mongering. The performance of the Indian economy wasn’t exactly the reason behind Modi’s win, it was his hardline rhetoric and warmonger-like adventurism with Pakistan that allowed him to sweep the elections. This is in striking contrast to Pakistan, where every mainstream political party runs on a platform of peace with India and if any political leader was to call for war with India to get re-elected, they would be laughed out of office.”
Bangladesh and BRI
“BRI is a comprehensive undertaking that can transform our development endeavours and also support us in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We will need to have a coordinated policy approach in three policy domains: trade, finance and investment (TFI). Only then can we better streamline the efforts to a win-win outcome.” This is the thrust ANM Muniruzzaman’s argument in The Daily Star.
What should be of concern, or rather interest, to India is the degree to which Bangladesh may be integrated in China’s flagship project: “Bangladesh is a signatory country of BRI. It is also a key strategic partner of the initiative. Of the six economic corridors upon which the concept of BRI is built, one corridor will pass through Bangladesh. The old Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor is now to become the BRI corridor linking Kunming to Kolkata. There are only two corridors of the six corridors which are identified as maritime corridors and the old BCIM corridor is one of them. It will start at Kunming in China, pass through Myanmar and Bangladesh, and end up in Kolkata, India. Recently, a bilateral contract has been signed between China and Myanmar known as China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC).”