The general elections in India which have resulted in the victory of the Congress-led UPA and Manmohan Singh's re-election as the Prime Minister provide a convenient departure point for revisiting Pakistan's policy towards India, especially from a long-term perspective. The results of the Indian elections carry important implications for its internal and external policies. An understanding of these implications can be highly instructive in re-examining Pakistan's long-term policy towards India. The Congress-led coalition (UPA) won 261 of the 543 seats in Lok Sabha as against 157 seats for the BJP-led alliance (NDA). Congress itself increased its tally of seats from 151 in the 2004 general elections to 206 in the latest elections. This was the best performance by Congress since 1991. The Congress-led alliance is thus short by only 12 seats for reaching the number of 273 for a simple majority in Lok Sabha. As for BJP, its share of the seats declined from 122 in 2004 to 116 in 2009 which is its lowest tally in the past two decades. The Communists also fared badly. Their share of the seats declined sharply to 24 seats as against 62 that they had won in the 2004 elections. This was their worst ever performance since 1952. Thus the Indian people sent a loud and clear message in support of the relatively moderate and centrist parties while rejecting the extremist right-wing and leftist parties. Congress may also have benefitted from the high rate of economic growth that India was able to achieve and the economic welfare schemes that were implemented under Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister. The success of Congress and its reduced dependence on various parties may enable it to implement the overdue economic reforms and combat the menace of corruption in its current term. The success of Congress, the rejection of right-wing Hindu parties like BJP and the return of low-key Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister augur well for India's troubled relations with Pakistan. It would be reasonable to assume that after a decent interval, initiatives would be taken to revive the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan which had been interrupted by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November last year. Similarly there is every reason to believe that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would continue his policy of developing close strategic ties with the US. Undoubtedly the Obama administration would respond in full measure by developing close relations with India in strategic, defence, economic and commercial fields. It also appears from the statements of Richard Holbrooke, President Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, that India would be closely involved in any settlement of the Afghanistan issue. It is against the background of these latest developments that Pakistan's policy makers need to chart out a long-term policy towards India keeping in view also the evolving regional and international security environment and India's strategic goals. Perhaps one of the most explicit descriptions of India's strategic goals can be found in an article by C. Raja Mohan, a former member of India's National Security Advisory Board, in the Foreign Affairs issue of July-August, 2006. According to him, "India's grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighborhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over the actions of outside powers. In the second, which encompasses the so-called extended neighborhood stretching across Asia and the India Ocean littoral, India has sought to balance the influence of other powers and prevent them from undercutting its interests. In the third, which includes the entire global stage, India has tried to take its place as one of the great powers, a key player in international peace and security." There couldn't be a clearer enunciation of India's hegemonic designs in South Asia than this statement. Raja Mohan goes on to identify the creation of Pakistan as a major obstacle in the realization of India's grand strategic goals for a variety of reasons. He particularly expresses India's concern over its physical separation from Afghanistan and Iran because of the establishment of Pakistan and its problems in dealing with the Middle Eastern countries because of the Islamic character of the state of Pakistan. It is not difficult to conclude from the foregoing that taming Pakistan into a satellite status would be India's major foreign policy goal. However, India may employ different tactics from time to time in dealing with Pakistan to suit the exigencies of the circumstances. Gaining direct access to Afghanistan and weakening Pakistan's relations with Iran and other Muslim countries of the Middle East would be its other major foreign policy goals. In the face of the formidable challenge posed by India's drive for hegemony in South Asia, the response of Pakistan's leadership and opinion makers has reflected a woeful lack of comprehension of India's strategic goals and foreign policy objectives. In addition and perhaps as a result of this lack of comprehension, our policies vis--vis India have swung like a pendulum from one extreme to the other instead of showing steadiness of direction and resoluteness of purpose. A few examples would suffice to make the point. While the Kargil adventure on the part of Musharraf and the coterie of ill-trained generals around him reflected one extreme of policy, his virtual submission to India on its terms through the joint Pakistan-India statement of January 2004 and his subsequent inapt handling of the Kashmir issue reflected another extreme. Another example of Musharraf's lack of comprehension of India's long-term strategic goals was the alacrity with which he consented to Afghanistan's inclusion in the SAARC. The same is true of the proposal made from time to time by some of our leaders to join India in a South Asian Economic Union which would result in the gradual loss of Pakistan's economic independence and negate the very rationale for its establishment. The need of the hour is a carefully worked out India policy which safeguards our long-term strategic, security and economic interests while taking into account India's long-term strategic goals and the evolving regional and international security environment. The policy should be formulated within a long-term framework to set its direction while leaving room for necessary adjustments in response to short-term developments. A policy formulated on these lines would avoid the pendulum-like policy swings which have been the hallmark of our India policy in the past two decades. The starting point of our strategy should be the recognition that in view of the acquisition of nuclear weapons by both India and Pakistan, and the necessity of rapid economic development to eradicate poverty and raise the standard of living of their peoples, peace between the two countries is a strategic imperative. This in turn requires a serious attempt on the part of both India and Pakistan to defuse tensions in their relations and resolve their differences and disputes through peaceful means. Some of these differences may be amenable to solutions in the short-term. Some like the Kashmir dispute may call for sustained efforts over a long period in view of their complexity. Our effort together with India in the short-term should be to take steps which would ameliorate the living conditions of the Kashmiri people in the Indian held Kashmir, allow them local autonomy, result in withdrawal of most of the Indian forces from the territory as the militancy declines and permit cross-LOC movement of people and goods. Peace between India and Pakistan requires efforts to promote mutual economic and commercial cooperation on a level playing field. It also necessitates a strategic balance between the two countries. However, Pakistan must achieve this balance in such a manner as safeguards our security without sacrificing the imperative of rapid economic development. This calls for creative diplomacy within the framework of a grand strategy which promotes our economic health while maintaining domestic political stability and preserving national security. This grand strategy would be the subject of another article. The writer is a retired ambassador E-mail: