A lot is being read into PM Narinder Modi’s “statesman like” dash to Lahore ostensibly to “drop by” and congratulate PM Nawaz Sharif on his birthday and the wedding of his granddaughter.


What caused this sudden burst of bonhomie when Mr Modi was just coming out of his latest and most vicious diatribes against us in Moscow and Kabul and earlier in Dhaka. This goes against India’s professed policies vis a vis Pakistan. It also goes against the grain and character of the gentleman epitomized by his inherent aggressiveness against Pakistan, his abrasive RSS background, his extremist Hindutva based political school of thought and his explicit disdain towards even his own fellow Indians who follow a different religion, in particular Islam. His consistent albeit failed attempts at coercive diplomacy against Pakistan and his worldwide media blitz and foreign policy campaigns to isolate and malign it as the “epicenter of terrorism” are still ongoing ventures. RAW’s subversive activities in FATA, Balochistan and Karachi in cahoots with the TTP, BLA, BRA and MQM and tensions along the LOC, working boundary and the international border persist.


The dichotomy is ironic, rampant and largely unsustainable!


Are we also supposed to be taken in at the first bear hug he forces onto PM Nawaz Sharif?


What has actually caused the Indians to change tack? Why does the BJP leopard suddenly appear to be changing its spots? Does Mr Modi want to divert domestic attention away from his political defeats? His promised economic miracle for India has failed to materialize, too. He wants to compensate now by exploiting the economic bonanza emerging in the South-Central Asian Region. To his chagrin Pakistan happens to be at the hub of this emerging economic boom and thus his compulsion to engage it. India wants land access to Afghanistan, the CARs, Russia and beyond, to western China through the CPEC and to the ME and Europe via Iran and Turkey as well.


Some interpret this as a major paradigm shift in India’s policies towards Pakistan. Some see this as India’s realization of Pakistan’s emerging cardinal position in the economic bonanza unfolding in the region due to the CPEC and other related economic activities. Some see this as India’s compulsion because it needs “Pakistan to become the bridge between itself and Afghanistan, CARs and Russia”. They see this primarily as a desperate attempt by India to get access to “the most critical of all links - the Wagah-Torkham Link”- without which the “bridge” loses all import, meaning and sense.
Some discern yet another “critical link” but one with far more sensitive and deeper strategic ramifications. They interpret Mr Jindal’s role with extreme trepidation. They see it as the ingress that India has ostensibly acquired into Nawaz Sharif’s psyche through the prospects and lure of untold billions that could accrue through his family’s business deals with the Jindal conglomerate. Some see this as a deliberate and deep Chanakyan maneuver by the Indian establishment to get into Nawaz Sharif’s mindset, exploit his reported weakness for business profits and thereby acquire direct insight and influence over his thought and policy formulating processes. Is Mr Jindal then the proverbial Trojan Horse, a RAW inspired implant, launched by the Indian establishment seeking deep multidimensional interests - financial, economic, strategic and geopolitical all rolled into one?
The contours of the Indian strategy are appearing. Having failed with coercive diplomacy they are now applying the indirect approach too. PM Nawaz Sharif appears to be under a twin assault by the Indians, a double envelopment of sorts. Mr Modi launches the charm offensive offering political dividends on the one hand, while Mr Jindal attempts to exploit PM Nawaz Sharif’s ostensible lure for business profits and financial windfalls on the other! (Amongst other proposals, the Jindals are interested in the multi billion dollars business prospects of importing Afghan iron ore from Hajigak, Afghanistan through Pakistan to India for their steel business).


Ordinarily, it would be a win-win situation with all in the region benefitting enormously. Statecraft, however, is a different cup of tea! It is a game of vital national interests, leverages and quid pro quos. India wants Pakistan to become a bridge between itself and Afghanistan, CARs, Russia and beyond. It wants that “critical link”. There will be inevitable and compatible quid pro quos involved. Pakistan must use its leverage and seek solutions to the Kashmir, water, Siachen and Sir Creek and LOC/working boundary issues. Furthermore, India will have to indicate its good intentions by reducing the threat levels its armed forces pose to Pakistan. The Indian Cold Start doctrine needs to be tempered. The bulk of its Armed Forces and nuclear assets are either deployed or poised against Pakistan. These threat levels need to be rationalized. Nations base their defensive strategies on the “capabilities and intents” of hostile and inimical nations. Capabilities once acquired generally take on a somewhat permanent nature; intents however remain variable changing with the obtaining strategic environment. PM Modi has indicated a change in his intent towards Pakistan. There has been no change in his or the Indian Armed Forces capabilities to harm Pakistan. Till such time irreversible changes in capabilities emerge, Pakistan does not need to lower its guard, regardless of the incentives, personal or national!


The Comprehensive Dialogue, being initiated, will have to produce comprehensive, just, fair, impartial, realistic, long lasting and quick results for this Indian engagement of Pakistan to bear fruit. The bilateral approach in vogue since 1972 has been a resounding failure. There is a need to change tack there as well. Arbitration is anathema to the Indians while bilateralism is not working for Pakistan. Why not consider an approach similar to the P5+1’s engagement of Iran? It might bring about the win-win solution the peoples of the Indo-Pak subcontinent have been waiting for.
PM Nawaz Sharif must confidently set the pace and negotiate with the Indians from a position of clear leverage, advantage and strength.
In the meantime, India must concentrate on creating the environment for meaningful and mutually beneficial engagement
of Pakistan!