IMRAN Khan’s peace gestures to India were really laudable, did generate optimism but whether it will also yield to something productive or positive, appears highly unlikely. Reason is not difficult to understand. History, especially of the last four decades, is full of events which cannot be called anything else but sheer negativity. Narendera Modi’s induction in prime minister’s office for a second term is a cause of alarm.
Hindu nationalism, seems to have gained much greater strength than ever before, which is not only unfortunate but should be source of worry for Islamabad and all those hoping for world to be a peaceful planet. His return with thumping majority, 352 seats in a House of 541, will obviously give him new vigour and instruments either to emerge as a peace promoter, or to be revengeful. The first option will win him worldwide accolades, but resort to second is bound to pose problems, agony for Muslims in India, and bound to blur him image as leader of the World’s largest democracy.
The choice is his now. Modi’s BJP party with 291 seats can form the government on its own, but can he afford to ignore his allies, supporters and backers in politics, is a vital question, analysts will be keen to know. Reliance on history, is something that is often un-ignorable. Ayub Khan offered cut in military strength of the two countries, and even signed Indus Basin Treaty in 1960, General Ziaul Haq picked cricket diplomacy to be in Jullandar and Benazir invited Rajiv Gandhi soon after taking over reigns, Nawaz Sharif received Vajpayee at Lahore, and Musharraf did his best to advance the cause at Agra, but neither of these attempts bore fruit.
Indian obduracy spoiled the broth. Indian and the Western media analysis on the election results, proves the Pakistani viewpoint beyond any shadow of doubt that Hindutva or Hindu nationalism which seems to have replaced age-old philosophy of Indian secularism, cannot only be described as fearsome. Washington Post, New York Times, The Hindustan Times, and more or less every other media organ in the West and within the neighboring country seem unanimous that the question of dealing with Pakistan has remained a major electoral issue in Indian politics. The ongoing election illustrates that the issue of national security has emerged as one of the key electoral debates in the country. In this regard, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has found an opening in the case of Pakistan, which remains valuable as an issue for electoral gains.
Pakistan has attempted to portray India’s recent aggressive approach toward the country as an effort lead by political parties for purely electoral reasons. The understanding in Islamabad is that as soon as the election cycle is over, New Delhi will revert back to the negotiating table. Pakistan’s government, for some time now, has maintained that dialogue is the only practical way forward if both states are seriously interested in resolving a number of outstanding issues. The expectation is not without logic, and carries conviction. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi haad a tete with counterpart Sushma Swaraj at the sidelines of the Shangahi moot, but the problem is not easy to resolve. It complicates because of the contempt and hatred promoted by the Indian media.
That brings pressure of the country’s leadership, and even if tries to mend ways, it finds itself chained by the journalistic onslaught. Hope sought to be promoted, falls prey to media designs, and the extremist, fanatic parties like RSS, and anti-Muslim feeling that handcuffs the BJP from being sympathetic to peace overtures from Islamabad. That is a bitter truth and a grim tragedy. It is expected that immediately after the Indian election, Islamabad may reach out to New Delhi to begin a dialogue at some level. It’s unclear, however, if either state is seriously interested in creating opportunities that could calm the current nature of the conflict between them.
Considering the prevailing hyper-nationalistic atmosphere in the Indian general election, with calls for a military action against Pakistan, it’s likely that New Delhi may reject Islamabad’s expected call for dialogue immediately after the results of the federal election, scattered for over six weeks. Rahul Gandhi lost his ancestral seat in Ameethi, and is under pressure to quit Congress leadership, but mother Sonia, despite being Italian, won which again should be a matter of study. Does it mean that sense continues to prevail in India. Turn out 600 million voters does emit ray of hope, but the lurking danger of extremists, nullifying the peace objective, seems much more powerful which dims hopes of peace negotiation starting. Expectations should continue to have and upper hand, and efforts aimed at achieving a sensible objective, should never be given up.