Prime Minister Narendra Modi has evolved his brand of assertive
diplomacy in dealing with Pakistan, India’s immediate neighbour, which
thrives on the proxy war of terrorism directed against this country.
This is how I look at PM Modi’s curt response to Pak Prime Minister
Imran Khan’s call for “working together for the betterment of their
Modi firmly stated that “creating trust and an environment free of
violence and terrorism were essential” for cooperation in fostering
“peace, progress and prosperity” in the region. His stand is a
reiteration of his earlier “redlines” on dialogue with Islamabad which
clearly conveyed that “talks and terror” cannot go together.
On principle, I agree with PM Modi whose policy has paid him rich
dividends electorally as he registered a magnificent victory for his
second term after India’s air strikes on Balakot (Pakistan). This
underlines the anti-terror mood of the people here.
Does Imran Khan have any appreciation of India’s tough stance on
terror? Of course, there is no denying the fact that Imran Khan is a
mere puppet in the hands of Pak Generals, including those controlling
the ISI, who have strictly followed General Zia’s doctrine of proxy
war. They have so far failed to appreciate India’s sensitivities and
its ability to hit back hard. PM Modi has done it and shown the rest
of the world the subversive potential of terrorism. It can silence
generations by sheer reckless use of gun-power and destroy democratic
institutions. It can also make people fear-stricken without the
authorities realising that the gun and the distorted preaching of
Islam could cleanse the Muslim community of its traditional ethos and
We have had glimpses of such happenings in Kashmir. Indians,
especially the people of Kashmir, have suffered a lot in the name of
Islam. But then, Islam does not preach terrorism. It is a pity that
the humanistic faith of Islam has been hijacked to the perverted
sectors of fake Ulema to serve their sectarian and political
The military rulers in Islamabad have used it conveniently for
suppressing democratic aspirations and perpetuating their rule at the
cost of civil liberties and people’s desire for freedom.
I am raising these basic issues concerning terrorism so that the
people of J & K and the rest of the country have better appreciation
of PM Modi’s tough policy on dialogue with Islamabad though, I
believe, that at the back of his mind he has an invisible open mind on
talks with Pakistan once he feels convinced that there is a genuine
desire for a dialogue with the ruling elite in Islamabad.
Just recall Modi’s first term as PM. He invited Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif for the swearing-in ceremony and went out of the way to develop
friendly relations with the then Pak Prime Minister, who was not a
puppet in the hands of the Generals and the ISI.
I know this fact personally since I had interacted with Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif after his largest ever democratic mandate given by the
He then told me passionately in an interview that “it will be in the
fitness of things that our economic and trade exchanges get a boost
within the SAARC framework with a level-playing field for mutual
I got the impression that Nawaz Sharif wished to resolve all
outstanding matters between the two countries with an open mind. That
was in February 1997 when I was at the helm of The Tribune’s editorial
History thereafter had its own way of calling the shots. How the
tables were turned against Nawaz Sharif by Gen Pervez Musharraf, who
ousted him from power, is quite a chilling story.
It may also be recalled that General Musharraf had been selected for
the coveted post by PM Nawaz Sharif superseding some able Generals.
But General Musharraf later sabotaged Nawaz Sharif’s power show in
Islamabad. This is a typical characteristic of Pak Generals. They have
no respect for democracy and its traditions. They believe in the rule
by the gun and hardly care for who suffers in the process.
It also may be said that in 2014, Modi had invited the rulers of all
SAARC countries to his inauguration, with the spotlight being on
Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s presence at the historic event.
By 2019, India’s approach has changed dramatically. Despite overtures
by PM Imran Khan, India has stuck to its position that terror and
talks cannot go together, and rightly so.
However, tackling Pak-sponsored terrorism will continue to be a big
challenge. And the challenge here lies in neutralising the Pak
Generals’ terror agenda against India. PM Modi has certain
calculations behind his tough diplomacy vis-à-vis Pakistan.
India as a nation is not negotiable. It has its own civilisational
values. It is one of the extremely tolerant nations in the world.
There is religious freedom. The Constitution guarantees this, and the
judiciary and enlightened citizens defend all forms of freedom rather
In this context, any extreme Hindu outfit to launch a hate campaign
against the Muslim community must not be tolerated.
Who is more communal and who is less so? What is more secular and who
is less so. There are stereotyped answers to each of these questions
depending on the persons they are addressed to. Unfortunately, today
we have become a “Mutual Blame Society”!
Looking beyond, I honestly believe that everything needs to be viewed
with an open mind. However, the future course of events depends on
whether Pakistan’s military class is prepared to discard terrorism as
an instrument of their foreign policy. We have to wait and watch.
Whatever methods PM Modi adopts to force Pakistan to see reason and
stop cross-border terrorism, there must not be any room for
complacency. Islamabad must realise that it cannot have better ties
with India unless it stops aiding and abetting terrorist outfits.