While speaking at the Press Club of India, Mr. Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Delhi, stressed the need for result oriented dialogue between the two countries. The statement followed an invitation to new Indian leader Narendra Modi by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Though many are wary about Narendra Modi’s Hindutva rhetoric, it would be prudent to remember that the last time the BJP led the coalition government in India with Mr. Vajpayee at the helm, the party took real steps to improve relations with Pakistan. Congress extended few such hands of friendship- at least not for long. Though Modi’s official stance on Pak-India relations remains to be seen, it is important to understand what he means for the Indians and in that context to analyse what he could mean for Pakistan. Outside of his perception as an ardent Hindu nationalist, he has been backed by big players in the corporate world who expect some real movement in the policy making gridlock of the last Congress government. Additionally, he has been supported by Indian minorities, including Muslims from Muslim dense states, who have been moved by his pro-development promises. In many ways, the budget to be announced next month will really reveal if the new Indian government’s economic policies are able to inspire confidence in the economy in a sustainable way. Perhaps Pakistan too, must focus on a strong economic policy concerning India above all else- one that hones in on trade. After this, comes regional politics.
On that foreign policy front, India will have a lot to accomplish. With the situation in Afghanistan changing, strong relations with Pakistan will be doubly important for regional security. One can hope Kashmir will not be exploited as a vulnerability by either side, and real initiatives taken to move forward.