In a pattern that has become as predictable as it is damaging, statements designed to incense Pakistan and heighten tensions are emanating from the Indian side of the border; led by the hawkish Prime Minister Modi himself. Having brushed aside peaceful advances made by the Pakistani side, the Indian government is selectively using Pakistan-bashing and sabre-rattling – which borders on blatant warmongering – to achieve domestic political objectives. While the incendiary statements seek to illicit a response, and the Pakistani politicians and the military certainly have responded, this tit for tat only serves to salve wounded sentiments and encourage volatile nationalism, nothing more. Pakistan must approach the issue with a policy that counters this verbal offensive by mitigating its effect on the region, not with a verbal offensive of its own.

The last time bilateral tensions were this high was when the elections in Indian-held Kashmir were around the corner. Modi and his political ilk bashed Pakistan, painting it as a terrorist state, while his government promised swift reprisal. This was coupled with an increase in cross border violations – which have miraculously disappeared now that the election is over – to create an atmosphere where Pakistan is seen as the looming threat and Modi and the BJP the only saviour. This round of belligerence is also rooted in domestic policy; appeasing hardliners, while isolating Pakistan in the South Asian region. Modi has reached out to smaller SAARC countries; signing developmental projects – which incidentally offers these contracts to Modi’s big money backers, such as Ambhani and Adani – and offering aid, all the while maligning Pakistan. This policy is evident in Bangladesh, where Modi’s statements were designed to play on the historical grievances related to the 1971 war and to drive a wedge between Pakistan and Bangladesh, which have had a fairly cordial bilateral relationship despite the volatile history on Bangladesh’s formation.

The fact remains that despite Indian arrogance, even its politicians and military commanders know that they cannot conduct a Myanmar-style raid on the western border without risking immeasurable damage themselves; and thus the statements must be viewed as unrealistic posturing, which does not merit a response. Responding invites counter responses and the vicious cycle never ends. Instead Pakistan should employ a mitigating policy; reach out to Bangladesh and other South Asian countries, highlight its counter terrorism successes and adopt the higher moral ground by refraining from being drawn into this base verbal dogfight. Any discerning observer can determine what Modi led BJP is doing, fanning hatred to generate votes, Pakistani politicians should not do the same.