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PM Modi’s Pakistan Outreach Policy is Riddled With Holes

Crucial decision to allow Pakistani Joint Investigation Team access to the Pathankot airbase was widely criticised.

Updated
Opinion
3 min read
Narendra Modi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval watching a presentation on counter-terrorist and combing operation by the Defence Forces, at Pathankot Airbase on Saturday. (File Photo: PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is playing with fire in walking the extra mile vis a vis Pakistan, and allowing access to a team of Pakistani investigators to the Pathankot military base which elements in Pakistan had attacked in early January.

There are only two ways of looking at his momentous decision:
1. Either he is playing a high-stakes game in the search for peace with Pakistan, or
2. He is being gullible and naive.

Pakistani Joint Investigation Team was allowed access to Pathankot airbase which was attacked by terrorists in January this year. (Photo: The Quint)
Pakistani Joint Investigation Team was allowed access to Pathankot airbase which was attacked by terrorists in January this year. (Photo: The Quint)

Modi Being Contradictory?

After all, there is no precedence in world politics where the intelligence officials of an enemy nation are invited to visit a military base which was attacked brazenly by terrorists propped up by said nation.

Modi’s actions regarding Pakistan are starkly different from what he used to say about the neighbouring country as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, just before the April-May 2014 general elections.

Then, he was all fire and brimstone about Pakistan. Now he is all sugar and honey, trying to be accommodative and understanding.

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Snapshot

Pakistani JIT’s Visit

    Pathankot military airbase was attacked by terrorists on the intervening night of 1-2 January 2016.
    Pakistan’s five-member Joint Investigation Team was allowed to visited Pathankot military airbase.

  • Modi’s own ministers had expressed reservations against Pakistani JIT being allowed access.
  • India’s Pakistan policy is being driven by the PMO rather than the foreign offices of the two countries.

As the PM candidate during general election campaign, he used to haul the then-UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh over coals for his alleged sins of omission and commission relating to Pakistan.

Now as PM, he is singing a different tune and has gone many miles ahead of Manmohan Singh in his desperate bid to don a statesman’s cap. The latest example being his decision to allow access to the Pathankot airbase to a Pakistani team comprising, among others, an ISI official to investigate the January 2-5 terror attack.

Clearly, Modi was wrong either then or now. His two stances are irreconcilable. Never before has India seen a prime minister who has vacillated as much as Modi has.

Briefing of Pakistan JIT members by NIA officers (Photo Courtesy: NIA)
Briefing of Pakistan JIT members by NIA officers (Photo Courtesy: NIA)

Pakistani JIT Allowed Access to Pathankot Base

What’s worse is the fact that Modi’s Pakistan policy is driven opaquely. Forget about taking parliament or the opposition into confidence before making his mega moves on Pakistan, Modi has not even taken his own party and cabinet colleagues into confidence.

So much so that the crucial decision of allowing the Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT) access to the Pathankot military base – the very base which will be pivotal for launching military operations against Pakistan should a full-scale war were to break out between India and Pakistan – was not brought up before the cabinet for a thorough discussion.

(Also read: Pathankot: Exclusive Details of NIA Presentation to Pakistan JIT)

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Modi’s own ministers of defence and home had gone on record expressing reservations against the Pakistani JIT being allowed access to the Pathankot base. Yet they were overruled and there is no official word from the prime minister’s office. This shows that only a handful of people in the Modi administration are calling the shots.

The fact is that India’s Pakistan policy is being driven by the PMO rather than the foreign offices of the two countries.

Vajpayee’s Lahore Trip

This is déjà vu. India had done this before with Pakistan. Interestingly, it was the earlier BJP-led government of prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee which had given a long rope to Pakistan first by Vajpayee’s Lahore trip and then by the hurriedly arranged Agra Summit.

But in the Lahore and Agra episodes, Vajpayee had taken his cabinet colleagues on board and the union cabinet was solidly behind him, whereas now the cabinet has no role to play.

This is a dangerous situation and a recipe for disaster.

While PM Modi’s outreach to an enemy state like Pakistan may be noble and laudable, it remains highly questionable whether his high-stakes gamble is worth the effort in the first place, and whether this is the right way to smoke the peace pipe with an intransigent neighbour like Pakistan.

PM Modi’s policy of reaching out to Pakistan is riddled with loopholes. It’s a question of when, not if, this policy will become a major embarrassment for his government.

(The writer is an independent journalist and strategic analyst who tweets @Kishkindha.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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