These are very challenging times for the political leadership of India and Pakistan, “to actualize the meaning of change into true democratic ethos”, which the people so desperately demand. The catalyst for change has already been identified in India. He is Narendra Modi, the new Prime Minister, whose assets are: the economic miracle in Gujrat; humble family back-ground and no lust for money. He is a symbol of hope and aspirations of the poor and deprived people of India. Yet there are some drags on him, if he fails to keep his negative tendencies under check.

Modi’s hands are soaked with the blood of over 2000 Muslims of Gujarat, yet his brutality fades into insignificance when compared with the crime of the Congress Party of India, which has killed over a hundred thousand men, women and children of Kashmir, with impunity. The crime continues unabated even now. It is argued that Modi has established strong relations with Israel, which may result into greater threat to Pakistan, but it is nothing when compared with the huge spy-network, the Indian Congress Government established in Afghanistan, in 2005.

Modi believes in Hindutva, which is a mix of Hinduism and compulsive nationalism. He draws his strength from militant organizations, like RashtriaSevakSungh (RSS), an organization rabidly opposed to secular democratic ethos. Modi has “to restrain his neo-fascist proclivities, and not to let his jingoism dictate his policies”. He is expected to overcome his weaknesses “and reveal in time whether cult and behavior match” or otherwise.

Kashmir is the core issue that needs to be settled for peace and stability in the region, whereas Modi is not ready to compromise on Kashmir, or concede “even an inch of Indian territory” yet it is Kashmir which will decide Modi’s future, because the key to regional peace lies with him. He must remember that for the last three decades Afghanistan has served as the “Strategic Base of Resistance” for the freedom movements in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria and Kashmir. After the withdrawal of occupation forces from Afghanistan by end of this year, the Jihadis would turn towards Kashmir, as they did in 1990, after the Soviet withdrawal, raising the threshold of confrontation between India and Pakistan to a dangerous level. Before that happens, the two countries have to find an amicable and peaceful solution of the Kashmir issue. There is no other alternative.

The 2013 elections in Pakistan have thrown up a new party, under Imran Khan, as the third largest, which has formed its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, while winning some good number of seats in Punjab and Sindh. The two national parties, namely Muslim League (N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party have withdrawn to their bases in Punjab and Sindh. Thus Imran Khan has given a lead to Modi, rejecting the patrimonial dictatorship, with promise to eradicate corruption, poverty, injustice and social discriminations. However, unlike Modi, Imran lacks achieving economic miracle in the province he rules and so far has not presented a clear agenda for the future to fulfill the given mandate. In fact he is looking for short-cuts to power, which may turn-out to be politically harmful for him.

The Sharif brothers are trying to turn-over the economy and bring prosperity, top downwards. It may be possible in the long term, but the short term demands of the suffering masses do not seem to be in harmony with the long term goals of the rulers. Corruption, poverty, social disparities and security, which are the damning problems of the broad masses, are not being addressed on priority. The stark reality that catches the eye and affects our minds and hearts, is the big difference in outlook in life which exists between Modi and our leaders, who are richly rich, trying to get richer, while Modi with an humble social background, lives a simple life in harmony with the suffering masses, whose lives he promises to lift. In fact Modi has embraced our Islamic traditions of austere living, whereas, our rulers are basking under the sun shine of the exploitive capitalism.

However, the political leadership on both sides of the divide is facing difficult challenges, which could be overcome with a clear standing of the word ‘change’ sweeping South Asia. Our leaders have to look to the future, because it is not possible “to build a sound and promising future, over the gaping graves of grievous past” – AjazZaka. And the first step in that direction therefore would be for Nawaz Sharif to accept the invitation to the swearing-in ceremony of Modi, as the prime Minister of India, who is destined to govern as “an enlightened leader and a champion of India’s great diversity.”

 The writer is a former chief of army staff.