The war of words between India and Pakistan, last week was occasioned by the Indian claim of a cross-border raid into Myanmar, where it is instructive to note that the main cause of concern was whether it would cause a war between the two. Even though the two are neighbours, there was the threat that any conflict could escalate to a nuclear exchange.

Pakistan was facing a number of problems because of the Indian sabre-rattling, where the first time this was highlighted, nothing was done for the Rohingya Muslims, who were the indirect reason for the raid. This failure was shared with the leaders of all other Muslim countries, but Pakistan’s link was historical. Also, it allowed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revive memories of the 1971 War, which allowed East Pakistan to secede from Pakistan, and form Bangladesh. Overall, the Indian attitude was modelled on that of the USA, and a similar sort of exceptionalism is claimed by India, especially by the Hindu fundamentalist BJP.

Perhaps of more concern to Pakistan, is that there does not seem to be any election in India that is still looming. Previously, Modi has made sabre-rattling something of a trademark, and has played the anti-Pakistan card as recently as the state elections last year. Most notoriously, he made a name for himself as Gujerat Chief Minister, when his tenure began with a massive slaughter of Muslims, where they were massacred indiscriminately and systematically.

There does not seem to be any reason why, Modi needs to be electorally appealing at the moment. However, one problem that he is facing is that his much-vaunted economic miracle is not showing any signs of taking off. It must be remembered that Modi’s appeal is not solely in his anti-Muslim bent, but also in his much-touted economic prowess. As Gujerat Chief Minister, he did not just preside over a massacre of Muslims, but over an economic boom. That boom has not taken place in the whole country, even though Modi has been brought to the national stage by the Indian electorate.

That electorate has got a strong Non-resident Indian (NRI) component, where it is perhaps more inclined to support the BJP than more stay-at-home types. While many of his voters viewed his anti-Muslim tendencies as an acceptable price for the economic management he would deliver, the NRI’s saw these tendencies as attractive. It must be remembered that the NRIs share this support for the BJP with key parts of the Indian establishment, like the armed forces, the services and the business class. This part of the support base finds the best expression of the anti-Muslim bias in the shape of anti-Pakistan deeds and words. Thus, the rather odd sight of a BJP Prime Minister boasting of something a Congress predecessor had done. There was the additional spur of the need to express support for Bangladeshi Prime Minister Hasina Wajid, who is about as pro-Indian as one could get. Bangladesh is also important to the new Indian BINB (Bangladesh-India-Nepal-Bhutan) strategy, which will create it as an area within SAARC, excluding Pakistan, as well as the three other members, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which do not share a land border with India. It is also no coincidence that these also include the Muslim members of SAARC, except Bangladesh, where none of the other countries are as obsequious to India. Apart from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives too would like India to function on the basis of the equality of all states, without any one claiming a superior status.

Modi’s foreign policy also uses the wider Indian diaspora, such as in Fiji and Mauritius, to further Indian aims, which were set even before Partition as being the dominance of the Indian Ocean. Though originally a Congress ambition, it is the BJP which has come to embody it.

The Congress has been as chauvinistic as the BJP, and indeed, they held office during all its wars after Independence, three with Pakistan and one with China. However, the last Congress government tried to concentrate on the economy, being headed by Dr Manmohan Singh for its two terms. Manmohan was supposed to be an economic whiz, having been a liberalizing Finance Minister in the 1990s, but his failure presaged not just the electorate’s greater concern with the economy, but also the intractability of the Indian economy. It is facilely presumed that the Fabian socialist influences that Jawaharlal Nehru had, took India down the path of a regulated command economy. This ignores the fact that India had already been a command economy, turned into one by the Raj because of World War II, where Nehru merely inherited that economy. True, he had been socialist enough not to dismantle it, when he came to power, but it was not his creation.

His true creation had been making India try to undo the Partition, where there was a partisan basis for this. He dominated the Congress, which he inherited from his father Motilal, but could not control the Muslim League, even though he had the help of Muslims like Abul Kalam Azad and Rafi Kidwai. It was unfortunate that there happened to be a dispute over the princely state from which Nehru’s ancestors originated, but that dispute allowed India to find a casus belli against Pakistan. The desire to hang on to Kashmir, no matter what the wishes of its people, is a very Hindu-chauvinist thing.

Silence had been the watchword of the one power without whose permission the war of words could not go ahead, because both India and Pakistan defer to it, which ended only as the two PMs talked. While Pakistan prides itself on being an old ally of the USA, it has grown closer to India after the collapse of the USSR, where one important reason has been the Indian diaspora in the USA. While there is a strong Pakistani one, the Indian is obviously more numerous. It deserves mention that an important component of it is Gujerati, like Modi, and there is a regional appeal as well as an ideological. Modi has still had his troubles in the USA, not being able to travel there until becoming PM, because of the massacre of Muslims in Gujerat on his watch as Chief Minister.

It is perhaps because the USA cannot afford a war in the region that the two countries will keep their sparring to words. Another factor is the fact that professional soldiers do not like wars, their opinions are highly valued by both governments, neither is likely to be encouraged, particularly the Indian, which faces no pressing political reason. However, Pakistan must ensure that India has no pot to stir, as in Balochistan for example. It must not forget that India launched its last war, because East Pakistan was so badly mishandled.