The alleged attack on the Baramulla military camp in Indian-held Kashmir, carried out on Sunday, is the most recent thorn in Pakistan-India relations. This episode can already be contextualised within the broader political scenario. At the centre of this military exchange, and other recent developments, lies the ego of Narendra Modi.

Modi’s idiosyncrasies; his early initiation into the RSS and his whimsical spirit; have made him a man who prefers action over inaction. By carefully and cleverly manoeuvring his political efforts, he has been able to manufacture a narrative of antagonism against Pakistan, while still retaining the mantle of a peaceful all-Indian messiah. This is a strategy that can be assessed by looking at the way he has dealt with the neighbour since taking charge in 2014.

In December 2015, Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore showcasing his intent to establish bilateral peace to the chagrin of conservatives at home and the joy of liberals. Less than a year later, he is pursuing policies of confrontation based on controversial allegations, pacifying his conservative base, while the liberals wait optimistically for his next u-turn. The current arsenal included the Uri attack, efforts to brand Pakistan as a terrorist state, a false clinical-strike, and the recent attack in Baramulla, right after which, on Sunday, he gave a mushy speech on Indian humanitarianism and a lack of a desire for territorial expansion. This is the Modi machine, where in a push and pull strategy political opportunities allow him to employ supposedly opposing approaches of truce and conflict. Is this cognitive dissonance? No, quite the contrary. There is method in his madness.

Such erratic behaviour is working for him. International leaders follow his lead in disparaging Pakistan, which is reflected in the recent bill proposed in the US Senate to label Pakistan a terrorist state. Modi, who can perhaps be seen as a modern day pied piper, has adopted the role of a national saviour through maintaining an unrelenting stance towards Pakistan, which has garnered for him tremendous popular support at home.

This recent speech is a move towards a real de-escalation. It is a power play and he is grandstanding for the international community and the cameras. The Modi pantomime has just begun, and Pakistan has the front seat.