By Hira Irfan
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise stopover in Pakistan to meet his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, the first time an Indian premier has visited the rival nation in over a decade. Both leaders flew to Raiwind from Lahore airport in a chopper, where Modi briefly attended PM Nawaz’s grand daughter’s wedding ceremony and then held a brief meeting with his Pakistani counterpart. This is the latest step in an often-fragile process of rapprochement between the two neighbors. Resumption of talks would be a welcome move, but next steps would show Modi’s sincerity. The visit itself was announced in a novel way on Twitter. Modi said he would stop over in Lahore on his way to New Delhi from Afghanistan. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, responding to Modi’s announcement, said on Twitter: “That’s like a statesman. Such should be the relationship between neighbours”. The visit, raised hopes that stop-and-start negotiations between the nuclear-armed neighbors might finally make progress after three wars and more than 65 years of hostility.
Economically, Modi sees Pakistan as bridge to Afghanistan and rest of the central Asia, he knows very well that India cannot become a global power without the gas from central Asia and access to the world’s largest market for Indian goods as Pakistan is the shortest and most economical route. He is also concerned about China’s growing influence in Pakistan. By bringing Pakistan into alliance India will be unchallenged power in the Asia. US is also putting a lot of pressure on India to sort out mess with Pakistan so that the US can make Pakistan meets its demand regarding nukes and China. The real problem is Indian internal politics which is nothing less than their soap operas. It will be a miracle to bring all politicians to one page to make peace with Pakistan. Anyhow, Narendra Modi found an occasion to give a good will gesture; hence he took the initiative. In fact, the die for resumption of dialogue was cast when Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif exchanged pleasantries and had a friendly chat on the sidelines of the 21st UN Climate Change Conference
in Paris on 30th November 2015. Then in the first week of this December at Bangkok, delegations led by National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan met, which was a real breakthrough. India’s Ministry of External Affairs said the discussions covered “peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir and other issues”.
On the Indian side, the Congress Party, questioned Modi’s visit to Pakistan, saying that serious information like this should not have been revealed through Twitter as India and Pakistan relations are not so good as yet that he stops over there on his way back from another country. Moreover, other extremist parties also criticized Modi visit to Pakistan. In case, there is turmoil in India due to Hindu extremists despicable acts like killing Muslims on the pretext of slaughtering cows or converting minorities by force; unrest in Kashmir due to repression and oppression and skirmishes on the Indo-Pakistan border, corporate sector would be annoyed. Thus Modi faces a dilemma; if he continues to facilitate and promote corporate interests, it will create unrest among the great majority of the people living below the poverty line, as fruits of Indian growth rate are not reaching at grass root level. On the other hand, if he neglects corporate interests foreign investment would not come.
Before his visit to Pakistan, Narendra Modi had been to Russia, where India and Russia signed 16 agreements across diverse sectors, including the manufacturing of nuclear reactors, solar energy plants, railways and helicopters. Earlier, at a joint media conference with President Putin, Prime Minister Modi announced the agreements signed between the two nations. “The agreement on manufacture of Kamov 226 helicopter in India is the first project for a major defence platform under Make in India,” he said. President Putin said Russia plans to build at least six new nuclear power units in India over the next 20 years. Russia and India signed agreements worth billions of dollars to build new nuclear power generating units in India and to cooperate in building defense and civil capabilities. The six reactors with 1,200-megawatt capacity each are to be built in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. One thing appears certain; Modi in Russia was told the cost of maintaining rift with Pakistan and advised to mend ways to get its people into the contemporary world. Same was the American message not long ago. So, the stop in Afghanistan gave some thinking time and Modi realized it would be best to follow Gandhi’s advice and start dialogue, instead of raised-cuffs with Pakistan on tension-free mode. To sum up, India is spending a fortune on nuclear and other arsenal; it continues with anti-Pakistan propaganda and activities in association with Afghan intelligence agency NDS. At the same time, Modi is offering hand of friendship to Pakistan.
The only reason Modi is playing nice to Pakistan is because his government has realized that without land route through Pakistan, there is very little chance of flow of cost effective supply of goods from India to Central Asia and vice-versa. Having said this all what Modi lacked is his sincerity towards Pakistan by not allowing the cricket series to go through per the plan so that PCB could not benefit from it financially. Amid this scenario, can we take Mr.Modi words for the face value when his deeds show something else?