No thaw with India? Why Pakistan is indulging in Modi-bashing?

modi-lahorePrime Minister Narendra Modi is surely the hate word among Pakistan’s ruling dispensation, including the military establishment that runs its India policy. And if any proof was needed, one only needs to refer to the giveaway statement of Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. “Pakistan sees no hope of a breakthrough in relations with India under the Narendra Modi government,” said Mr Aziz, encapsulating the distaste for PM Modi among Pakistan’s ruling elite.

This rancour can be understood as Mr Modi has done the unthinkable by launching surgical strikes on Pakistani terrorist camps, patronized by the Rawalpindi establishment, in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and launching an effective campaign to isolate Pakistan in the international arena in the aftermath of the Uri terror strike. The message from Mr Modi is quite clear, and it’s no surprise that he is hated by Pakistan’s establishment which continues to use cross-border terrorism with impunity.

But look at it closely: is Mr Aziz’s judgement that peace is not possible with Mr Modi at the helm in India justified? Mr Modi tried hard to reach out to Pakistan, but sadly there was no reciprocity. It needs to be noted that Mr Modi invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony, indicating a new start in the troubled India-Pakistan relations.

The cynical judgment of Mr Aziz implies that Mr Modi had a different game-plan when he invited Mr Sharif, and later on made a surprise stopover in Lahore for the Pakistani leader’s birthday celebrations. Amid all these well-meaning overtures, Pakistan employed a strategy of non-cooperation and used non state actors to destabilize the Modi government. The latest statement by Pakistan that no thaw in relations is possible under PM Modi clearly exposes their intention to weaken the ruling government. The big question is: why Modi is on the radar of the Pakistani government?

This statement by Sartaj Aziz has come at a time when India is facing dual problems of cross border infiltration as well as continued instability in the Kashmir valley. Hence it is politically motivated; firstly Pakistan knows that the people of Kashmir are not happy with the coalition government in the valley, which has the BJP as its partner. The tensions in the Valley have escalated more since the new coalition government took charge of the affairs in Jammu and Kashmir. Here Pakistan sees a chance to earn the sympathy of the people of Kashmir by criticizing the conduct of the coalition government in the Valley and by highlighting the loopholes of the central government in handling the situation in Kashmir. Secondly, by praising the separatists and the anti-national elements in the Valley, Pakistan is goading the young minds to take the radical path to fight back against the operations of the Indian Army.

Pakistan’s game-plan

The Pakistani government is also trying hard to win the hearts of the radical groups in Pakistan by deliberately giving statements against the Modi government and its treatment of the people in Kashmir. These radical groups play an important role in Pakistan to influence the voters during elections, so no party in Pakistan can afford to lose their sympathy and friendship. Therefore, the Modi-bashing by political parties these groups contended and closer to the ruling government. Pakistan has condemned India’s alleged interference in their internal affairs like Baluchistan at international fora to gain sympathy from the international community.

Pakistan realises that the Modi government is already trying to isolate it on the international front by boycotting international engagements with it after the Uri attack. Mr Modi has showed an assertive posture to deal Pakistan and called off his participation in the SAARC Summit, planned to be held in Pakistan. He has also been able to influence a few countries not to join the meeting in support of India until Pakistan denounces use of its land for terrorism activities. Pakistan is feeling the pressure from all the quarters and it knows that the Modi government can go to any extent to push back infiltration from the borders.

modi-vijayaClearly, the Pakistani government has run out of options and it shows in its desperate move to launch a tirade against the Modi government. In a statesman-like vein, Mr Modi has challenged Pakistan to compete with India in eradicating poverty and unemployment.

This strategy of Modi to not to attack Pakistan directly but on a different parameter has won him admiration from all over the world. Mr Modi’s message is loud and clear: terror and talks cannot go hand in hand, therefore until Pakistan stops supporting terror activities on the Indian soil there can be no fruitful talks. For this reason, Pakistan sees Mr Modi, with his capacity for out-of-box thinking and decisive action, as its arch enemy  and a formidable obstacle in pursuing its politically motivated activities in Kashmir.

But it seems Pakistan’s attempts to influence domestic discourse on terrorism in India is not going to succeed given across-the-board support for tough actions against Pakistan in the wake of the Uri terror strike. Pakistan must change its policy of cross-border terror against India if it wants peace with the world’s fastest growing economy, regardless of who is in power in New Delhi.

(Zainab Akhter contributed inputs for this article.)

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