Friday, July 10, 2015

Modi, Sushma, Pakistan, and Flip-flops!

            Modi, Sushma, Pakistan, Bilateral talks, and Flip-flops add to my confusion! Sorry, but this is not about my confusion. Even though the blog is all about the Confused Ambadi, this post is about a confused Pakistan policy of the Modi government, and the nation’s honour and credibility, at stake.

            When Modi Govt came to power, people were curious about its Pakistan policy. Narendra Modi had issued many strident statements against Pakistan and UPA Govt’s Pakistan policy. The new External Affairs Minister Ms. Sushma Swaraj had demanded getting ten Pakistani heads for the head of an Indian soldier that was allegedly taken away by Pakistani forces. BJP had consistently derided any attempt at bilateral talks by terming it as Biriyani diplomacy, on the ground that talks cannont go on so long as Pakistan fails to prosecute and punish the perpetrators and master minds of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. Not to talk about the vocal and often abusive supporters of Modi on social media who would agree to nothing, as far as Pakistan was concerned.

            Such militant positions by the supporters and leaders of the incoming government would cause concern to anybody who is interested in the regional peace. However, the roles were reversed with the innovative swearing in ceremony diplomacy and the consequent exchange of garments between Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers. The supporters and media (not much difference in between) described it as a great diplomatic coup by Modi after an ‘ineffective’ Manmohan Government.

            Well, the story had anything but a happy ending. Soon the skirmishes got exacerbated on the border with many more heads of Indian solders falling on the ground. Fortunately for the peace lovers, Sushma Swaraj had given up the 10 for 1 bargain style. India blasted a boat from Pakistan, along with the people on board, accusing it of involvement in another 26/11 type terror act.  Pakistan continued to provoke India with its overtures towards Kashmir separatists. However, talks also continued intermittently. The talks between Pakistan would commence on a day and get stalled on the next day. The only moot point remained as to what could be the possible trigger for the beginning or ending of a talk with Pakistan!

            In one of the latest provocations, the Pakistani court released the 26/11 master mind Lakhvi on bail (some people point out that a government cannot be held responsible if a court orders release of an accused on bail, be it in the case of Lakhvi and the like in Pakistan, or many persons in India accused of terror acts).  India made very strong protests on this issue which remains sensitive back home.  India even approached the United Nations to seek action against Pakistan on this issue. The move, however, was blocked by another ‘close friend’ of Prime Minister Modi, the People’s Republic of China, despite all the latest rock star visits and bonhomie!

            It was against this back drop that India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj issued a statement that there is no flip-flop in her government’s stand on talks with Pakistan. She categorically stated, “No talks could be held as long as Mumbai attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi was walking free.”  This statement was issued on June 01st, 2015.

            Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is still walking free. Pakistan continues to be belligerent on the Line of Control, with the killing of an Indian solder taking place just three days before, on 06th July 2015. However, India’s Prime Minister Modi chose to meet and talk with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, at Ufa, in Russia, on the sidelines of BRICS summit! As usual, no explanations are expected on what changed India’s stand on 'no talks with Pakistan as long as Lakhvi is walking free,' or continuation of unprovoked attacks on Indian soldiers, from across the LoC.

            BJP sought to justify the latest talks. The recently converted leader of BJP, MJ Akbar, reportedly claimed, "For the first time Pakistan has accepted to combat terrorism in 'all its forms." However, Congress was quick to point out that similar joint statements were issued way back on 08th September, 2012.  

            If we agree with Sushama Swaraj that the latest talks are not a part of an ongoing flip-flops, then what it is? Where is the credibility for India’s diplomacy if one day India’s External Affairs Ministers says not talks, and the next day, India’s Prime Minister agrees to a summit meet?  Will any nation take India’s words of caution, seriously?  Can any self-respecting External Affairs Minister continue in that post after such a rebuff from the Prime Minister?

Well, I confess, I am all for talks between countries even when things are not going well. However, I am thoroughly confused by this policy, or lack of it from Modi government! The only ‘plausible’ explanation seems to have come from Lalu Prasad’s RJD, which said the talks are an outcome of Modi’s “emphasis on ‘photo opportunity’ and uploading pictures on Twitter rather than respecting what India needs.”

P.S:      As of 14th July 2015, it has become clear that apart from the 'photo opportunity' and 'pictures on Twitter' nothing is likely to come out of this flip-flop diplomacy with Pakistan. Pakistan refused to move any fresh application for obtaining Lakhvi's voice sample, termed the discussions with Modi as informal, and stated that no formal discussions will take place without including Kashmir as part of the agenda! After the initial 'mandatory' euphoria, many are already talking about how 'India' (not Modi Govt) has been taken for a ride by Pakistan!

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