Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tough Love: Modi Doctrine for Pakistan

Ayushman Jamwal, "Tough Love: Modi Doctrine for Pakistan,"

Image from article, with caption: File photo of India-Pakistan flags
Since the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, for many years India has maintained a pacifist stance with Pakistan. Several Indian governments have repeatedly sought talks with Pakistan over numerous border disputes, trade ties and regional pacts, staying the course despite multiple insurgencies and attacks by Pakistan based terror groups. Indian armed forces have also maintained a state of ‘self-defence’, targeting infiltrators and terror cells but never launching pre-emptive strikes on Pakistani soil.
The Pakistan narrative from many Indian governments has been quite subdued, an effect of the ‘Cold Start’ military doctrine, which focuses on military buildup to spark economic instability in the rival nation, along with a focus on international and diplomatic levers to maintain pressure. India continues to adhere to this doctrine, yet under PM Modi’s guidance, there is an increased focus on optics with India waging a public relations battle on the diplomatic stage. The status quo remains the same between the two nations, but the Modi government has taken a more aggressive political stance. Modi has suspended talks over Pakistan officials meeting Jammu and Kashmir separatists, set the agenda for bilateral engagements namely removing Kashmir from the joint-statement at the Ufa summit, repeatedly raised the threat of terror from Pakistan on the international stage and most recently, highlighted atrocities of the Pakistan army in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Balochistan via the forum of his Independence Day speech. Enforcing ‘red lines’ comes in conjunction with a highly emotive and globally recognised image of Pakistan as under siege and even controlled by terrorists and fanatics. It is a perception bolstered by news and images of multiple terror attacks, thousands attending rallies organised by extremists and the killings of secular activists and media personalities. It is an image that popular culture has latched on to, showcasing it in movies, TV shows and video games, feeding on the ‘civil war’ in the nation to sustain the terror narrative in the West.
At the same time, Modi made a historic move inviting Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif and other South Asian heads of state to attend his swearing-in ceremony. In December in 2015, the Prime Minister made an unscheduled visit to Lahore to attend Nawaz Sharif’s granddaughter’s wedding a week after both sides agreed to a Comprehensive Bilateral dialogue. Prime Minister Modi also invited a Pakistan probe team to survey the site of the Pathankot terror strike, even though India was denied permission to assess the probe across the border.
In the book ‘The New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations’, academic Jan Melissen says that, “Both public diplomacy and public affairs are directly affected by the forces of globalisation and the recent revolution in communication technology, in an era in which it has become increasingly important to influence world opinion.” While maintaining and publicising outreach to Pakistan, Modi has toughened India’s position on multiple bilateral issues where earlier jibes from across the border would go unanswered. Modi understands and is capitalising on this public relations game, fitting neatly with the communication tactics and politics of neo-diplomacy in the 21st Century. ...
The Modi government has used the world’s negative view of Pakistan over the rampant plague of terrorism to boost India’s narrative on the global stage, enforcing the red lines of engagement, even sidelining Kashmir as an international issue. For many years, the Kashmir debate has only focused on the region in India’s control, but Prime Minister Modi has expanded the debate to PoK and Balochistan, re-directing Pakistan’s narrative against itself, putting a spotlight on human rights violations the Sharif government cannot hide, deny or ignore. At the same time, Modi has come across as magnanimous, reaching out to the Pakistan government to keep channels of engagement open.
'Shake and slap' is how one can describe the nature of Pakistan’s engagement with India for over 50 years. Prime Minister Modi seems to be returning the favour.

No comments: