India-Pakistan relations are not on the mend. They are deteriorating. Invitations to the heads of SAARC countries to attend the inauguration of Narendra Modi was really meant to signal that a new kind of leadership in India was at the helm, one with a different vision and approach to national and international affairs.

Nawaz Sharif welcomed the opportunity to meet India’s new prime minister and hopefully, in due course, forge better relations with the new government.

He had assumed that PML-N victory in the elections was an endorsement of his desire to work for friendly relations with India. During his visit, he neither referred to the Kashmir question nor met with Kashmiri leaders.

The Indian foreign secretary as also the foreign minister, however, issued statements giving a glimpse of the mind of the Modi government. The note struck was that Pakistan should recognize the reality of a government with a difference and keep this factor in view while dealing with it.

Subsequent happenings manifested the way the relationship was to proceed. The agreed foreign secretary level talks about talks were suddenly cancelled on the ground that the Pakistani Ambassador in India had met some of the Kashmiri leaders—something which had been done umpteen times in the past, as a matter of routine.

Later, there was no meeting between the two prime ministers in New York during the September UN General Assembly session.

Realizing that he had been rebuffed and with an eye on domestic sentiment, Nawaz Sharif in his address to the General Assembly, spoke forcefully about the Kashmir issue reiterating the relevance of UN resolutions regarding the “disputed state.” Modi hit back, accusing Pakistan of terrorism. He had more to say during his meeting with the American president. He was able to persuade Obama to include in the joint statement a denunciation of Pakistan based terrorist groups operating abroad.

In the meantime, the firing at the Ceasefire Line and Working Boundary has continued. Pakistan has been accused of “misadventure.” Modi has been exhorting the Indian armed forces to give a fitting reply and has at least once used the word “enemy” for Pakistan.

One cannot rule out Indian influence and input in a recent report sent by the US defense department to Congress, under the title: “Progress towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan.” It is alleged that “terrorist sanctuaries” inside Pakistan were operating against Afghanistan and India. The statement also specifically mentions outlawed organizations like Jamaat-e-Dawa, Jaishe-e-Muhammad and Daud Ibrahim and the need for stopping their activities by blocking their funds and other support.

Our foreign office summoned the US ambassador and the advisor on national security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz handed over a demarche to him rejecting “unsubstantiated allegations”, also highlighting the armed forces’ “comprehensive” operation against militants in FATA and in particular, North Waziristan.

One may now read the latest statement of India’s defence minister, Arun Jaitley. Addressing the India (international) Economic Summit, Mr. Jaitley didn’t mince words when he said, “I think a red line has to be drawn in Pakistan to reconsider who they want to speak to; do they want to speak to the government of India or do they want to speak to those who want to break up India?”

India, he added, was willing to talk to Pakistan if this (new) red line is not crossed. The India foreign office has also issued a statement saying that there is no proposal to discuss the question of the two prime ministers meeting in Kathmandu during the SAARC summit. This practically amounts to shutting the door to further talks.

How is Pakistan to deal with an unfriendly if not hostile India keeping in view India’s close “partnership” relationship with America, with none too friendly relations with Afghanistan, and daunting challenges the government is facing internally?

The first exercise Pakistan needs to undertake is an in-depth study of India’s intentions. What has happened since the advent of the new Indian government provides an indication of things to come. It is also necessary to peep into Modi’s mindset, his beliefs, vision, ambitions and his programmes stated in the BJP’s election manifesto, as well as statements he has made from time to time within India and abroad. Two manifesto goals may especially be mentioned: construction of Ram Mandir at the site of the Babri mosque in Ayyudhia and nullification of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution regarding Kashmir’s special status.

In a recent article, Praful Bidwai, a veteran newspaper editor and rights activist, has expressed his deep concern about the way the educational curricula in India is being radically changed. Read Bidwai’s words: The RSS, BJP and their affiliates have declared their intention to radically reorganize educational curricula along Hindutva lines, including the purging of textbooks of secularist ‘misrepresentations’. Parveen Sinclair, the upright director of the National Council for Educational Research and Training, was forced to resign. Calls for banning/burning books that advance non-Hindutva views have become strident. Fanatics are rampaging through colleges, bookshops, theatres, art galleries and cinema-halls, baying for punishment to dissidents. Everything from political beliefs, cultural identity and personal morality is being targeted in hysterical campaigns demanding conformity. This is in keeping with the profoundly undemocratic culture of the RSS, which long ago dispensed with the “cumbersome clap-trap of internal democracy.”

Prime Minister Modi is, according to Forbes magazine, one of the most powerful men in the world, and Pakistan needs to watch the Indian leader carefully.

Our overall attitude towards India may at least for sometimes to come, remain low-key. We should make greater use of public diplomacy to influence the opinion of the international community with regards to the continuing violation of human rights in Kashmir. We should keep the issue alive in terms of UN resolutions now that India has unilaterally forged the new red line.

America needs to firmly be told that Pakistan is doing everything possible to eliminate terrorist outfits in Pakistan. We must safeguard our frontiers and protect our interests. The early return of IDPs to their homes is in order, as well as their rehabilitation.

Above all, we have to put our house in order. On matters of national interest, top leaders should rise above party hubris and arrive at an agreed national vision and approach to deal with crucial internal and external threats and dilemmas.

The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations

analyst.

pacadepak@gmail.com