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The failure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Pakistan Policy

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The day Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sherif was invited to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swerving-in ceremony was the first policy mistake. Behind the scenes, Modi’s invitation to our disputed neighbor did not seem to account for the impact on across the border in Pakistan. Keeping the complex relationship in a boiling pot would not have given great diplomatic leverage to India’s foreign policy, but would have been a small political victory to Modi’s domestic politics.

Last Christmas, Modi arranged a surprise meeting with Sharif to wish him well as he celebrated his 66th birthday, with the move applauded by many private TV channels and the print media in their news hour across India. They praised Modi for this brief but humble approach to his counterpart. But one thing that Modi’s well-wishers forget is that the more pressure you apply on Islamabad, the more impending wrath India-Pakistan relations will have to endure. The above mentioned well-wishers of Modi are now criticizing Pakistan for the current Kashmir turmoil, where instead, they should focus on the BJP government and their Pakistan policy.

Pakistan is a weak state. There would be no second thought about it. Last month posters across Pakistani streets urged the Military General to take control of the Government of Pakistan, indicating that Islamabad is in trouble. The New York Times backed up this claim, arguing that “in recent months, the popularity of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, has dipped considerably because of corruption allegations that have swirled around his family”. The situation prevails in our neighborhood, and the Modi government fanning the air for political mileage will not heal past wounds. To hide their domestic instability, Pakistani politicians have no choice other than to counter India on Kashmir. For Pakistan’s unity during internal turbulence, their only strategic device involves targeting India against the Kashmir issue. We have to realize one thing very clearly – a weak Pakistan should not be our target. A strong India should be our goal. If any refugee crisis occurs in Pakistan, we cannot tolerate it. We should not forget the current Syrian refugee crisis and how it has impacted the nations of the European Union and their domestic politics. Indian policy makers need to stop beating around the bush and think of new ideas to support Pakistan and ensuring she is democratically strong. It means we have the chance to set the table and host our neighbor for negotiations.

However, now is not the right time to engage with Pakistan. The work carried by the Congress Party under Dr Manmohan Singh’s administration is now being copied by Modi. Modi’s continued engagement with Pakistan in the last two years yielded no results. The same Modi heavily criticized the previous Congress Party’s administration and stated that the BJP government would have more strength to handle Pakistan effectively. Modi and his team have opened their mouth, but now they need to answer to public outcry. Since the government did not have any Pakistan policy, a prediction of no clear answer would be expected.

Surprise visits to wish troubled neighbor leaders birthday is by no means a breakthrough. In the last two years we have only seen unfolding dramas and events under this BJP government, all in the name of foreign policy. In this regard, more policy paralysis can be predicated. The government does not intend to learn any lessons from their failed foreign policy, and this includes our neighbour Nepal and China.

Modi has not only put the failed Pakistani relationship to test, but has also sat his weak external affairs ministry in the hot seat. Even his foreign policy advisors cannot understand his statements or his perceived intentions. He speaks like local political orator on an international stage only increasing an artificial demand. He did not comprehend the difficulty, and even inability, for his team to convert his speeches into policy and how exactly these would be implemented. Previously many who praised his policy meetings and speaking without notes in his hands are now criticizing this, claiming that is has no value.

Now Kashmir is facing setbacks because of two main reasons. Firstly, it is not entirely because of the killing of Burhan Wani the young commander of Hizbul Mujahideen. The reason would actually be the different ideologies held by the BJP and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and forming a government with no consensus on governance. Both parties are completely divided on Hindu-Muslim ideology, leaving the secular idea of India in Kashmir merely shuffling forward. Therefore the question is, how can this coalition give prosperity and peace to the valley? How can this government be people centric?

Secondly, the vote by the Kashmir people witnessed a bigger loss of confidence Modi’s governance than was expected. The young and educated are suffering without jobs. They do not have any hope. Both the BJP and PDP should take moral responsibility for the social impact that triggers Wani’s death to the complete shutdown presently enacted across Kashmir.

Pakistan taking the Kashmir matter to the UN and getting a slap in the face is another issue. However, in the last ten years, with the Congress Party led by the UPA government, Pakistan was not allowed to reach this level. What this describes is that the BJP government has absolutely no clear policy or direction in dealing with Pakistan.

But, as can defend the various steps he has taken to engage with his Pakistan counterpart, these efforts are not actually policy engagements, they are great stage shows. Not one inch of feel good factor can be claimed to have been developed with Pakistan under the policy of Modi’s government. While Kashmir is facing severe turmoil, Modi is fiddle like the King Nero.

The best policy solution would be as follows. First, the Modi government should stop looking to Kashmir as the prism of security, and seek better political engagement instead. This requires more cooperation between the BJP and the PDP, with both should giving up their problematic positions on governance and delivering the public goods that would begin heal the Kashmir valley. The stakeholders should keep in mind that they are meant to be for all sections of the society in the Kashmir State.

Secondly, the recently held South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Home Ministers’ conference in Pakistan was again a water shadow, would no real maneuvers taken to offer peace and security for South Asia. As a rising power India has the strength to deal with any challenges, and therefore has to bear more responsibility than Pakistan to keep the region safe. This is the time to demonstrate this strength, and to fulfill these obligations of peace and security, the Modi government needs new policy directions to deal with Pakistan.

Antony Clement is a Senior Editor (Indo-Pacific), Modern Diplomacy, an online journal. He is a researcher in Indian Foreign Policy. He is currently working on two books - “The Best Teacher” and “Diplomacy in Tough Times”. His research centres on India’s diplomacy & foreign policy and extends to domestic politics, economic policy, security issues, and international security matters, including India’s relations with the US, the BRICS nations, the EU and Australia. His recent book is “Discover your talents.”

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South Asia

“Haqeeqi Azaadi” or “Political Invasion”?

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You call it a “Long March” or an “Azaadi March” or a “Haqeeqi Azaadi March” and lastly according to some people “Political invasion of the capital”; whatever attempt it may be, the impact of this “Long March” will not be “Short” at all. Seems like history is repeating. Yesterday, it was PTI, later it was TLP, then JUIF, PDM & now again PTI. This reminds us about a Supreme Court’s historic judgment on Faizabad Sit in by Supreme Court, which is quite relevant again in these crucial times. The historic judgment of Supreme Court on Suo moto quotes that “The leaders of the dharna intimidated, hurled threats, abused, provoked and promoted hatred. The media provided unabated coverage. Inflammatory speeches were delivered by irresponsible politicians. Some unscrupulous talk-show hosts incited and provoked citizens.” Isn’t the situation once again similar? Doesn’t it seem like history is repeating? Few analysts consider it to be a worst kind of situation.

Supreme Court writes in its judgment that “the freedom of speech and expression and of the press are fundamental right. However, these rights cannot be used to denigrate or undermine the glory of Islam, security or defence of Pakistan, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, or commission of or incitement to an offence.  He categorically mentions that “PEMRA Ordinance mirrors the restrictions as set out in Article 19 of the Constitution and further prohibits broadcasts which are, “likely to create hatred among the people or is prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order or is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility.” So, Supreme Court has already given clear instructions that if some event is likely to disrupt peace and tranquility, media broadcasts can be prohibited.

Insiders say that we are in a dead end and this is the most crucial time of history for Pakistan, especially when the economic fate has to be decided by IMF on 25th May when Imran khan marches on Islamabad. So let’s playout the possible upcoming scenarios which political stakeholders may have to consider;

  1. Marching towards Islamabad with huge crowds is one thing but forcing a government to dissolve assemblies with this crowd is another thing. Imran Khan very well knows this is a do or die situation for his political career as well. He knows his March will only succeed if he can force an early election.
  2. Bringing larger mobs to Islamabad will only be fruitful if there is some kind of disruption by the present government or by the PTI itself. IK knows that a prolonged sit in without happenings in the red zone won’t be impactful.
  3. PTI leaders have been repeatedly convincing people including government employees, Army officers and police to bring their families in their Haqeeqi Azaadi March. The question which arises is that “Why IK doesn’t bring own family members to join the “Jihad” or “Haqeeqi Azaadi”?
  4. IMF has to take crucial decision on Pakistan’s economic fate. Without an IMF Package, a Srilanka type scenario may arise. The decision will come on the same date as of long march, on 25th May. This is a do or die situation for Pakistan’s economy. So the leaders of this March should definitely come with a futuristic economic plan and tell the masses how will they get rid of this dire economic situation.
  5. While Srinagar Highway will be full of Marchers led by the so-called Ambassador of Kashmir, a big decision is expected to come from Srinagar about Yasin Malik. Unfortunately, it is expected that his sentencing maybe announced on 25th May as well.

The government also has limited options. They are arresting leaders of PTI. They are raiding houses in their own panic mode which will further incite the situation. The removal of fuel subsidiary has become inevitable and when it happens it will be the most unpopular decision. Rising, Inflation will cut purchasing power. Finalization of IMF program has brought them to a dead end.

The dread is in the air. 25th May is around the corner. It is Crucial. It is Do or Die for Pakistan. We must fear!!

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When Politics turns Personal; The Toxic Allegations & Accusations become a Norm

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Image source: timeofpakistan.com

There is something happening beneath this political turmoil which is NOT looking good!!

Whenever Political landscape turns into a Personal battleground, defeats become unacceptable. These past few days are a perfect case study to see that how Political elite in Pakistan has done whatever it took it to stay in power. In this power grab scenario, there could be numerous losses including the integrity of institutions. We have unfortunately entered into a very dangerous phase, where some political stakeholders have put all stakes at risk, where they have stretched their limits beyond a constitutional limit, all to gather mass support, all to stay in power and avoid defeat. Is it a threat of losing power? Is it a double game? Is it a practical hybrid war we are fighting?  Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be good. All is at stake, all is at risk and all is toxic.

As if the political temperature was not noxious enough, Shireen Mazari Saga took place. Once again, accusations, allegations and assumptions started pouring in against the state institutions. Soon after her arrest, her daughter, a lawyer herself Imaan Zainab Mazari alleged that her mother was beaten by male police officers during the arrest. But few minutes later, a video clip surfaced that showed clearly that her mother was arrested by Female Police officers in broad daylight and as per the law. Lie number 1 of the daughter stood exposed. Within moments, without any cogent evidence the lady, known for many controversies in the past targeted state institution for such an act, although the anti-corruption already had taken responsibility of her arrest.

Abuse of power can never be tolerated, regardless of who it targets or from where it emanates. This mantra is true and everyone has an equal belief on it but let’s take a deep dive to see that how politics turned dirty in this case, how blame game took place and how this entire episode was used as a tool to churn propaganda against Army leadership and Armed Forces.

1. The anti-corruption police had arrested Shireen Mazari and she herself accepted that Prime Minister and Interior minister were responsible for my arrest. But the mother daughter nexus brazenly started blaming institutions without any solid evidence. Shouldn’t there be an inquiry on this too?

2. PTI was always of the opinion that why courts were opened mid night to send IK packing while he wasn’t listening to anyone however when same court gave a verdict in favor of PTI ex minister, late night, it was celebrated and much appreciated by Shireen Mazari & IK who have been spearheading anti judicial tirade until recently. Isn’t it blatant hypocrisy? Judicial inquiry has been ordered by the Court which is a positive sign, but the serious allegations which Mazari nexus have raised must also be inquired during this newly formed judicial inquiry. Should the Judiciary not question them on hurling these baseless allegations?

3. The present government, whose Police itself arrested Shireen Mazari disowned this attempt. Attorney General displayed his ignorance about the matter in front of the court. So, somehow the government created this impression in the public eye that they are not to be blamed for the arrest of Shireen Mazari. Was it a double game? Or a deliberate effort to discredit institutions?

Pakistan is already facing serious economic downfall, political uncertainty and civil strife. PTI has also announced Long March to Islamabad on 25th May which is likely to further exacerbate already fragile political and economic instability. It has become quite evident now for achieving petty political ends, our political elite has no serious resolve to address the crisis confronting the country. Country is being deliberately pushed to limits of economic and political dead end. The political immaturity and lack of vision to handle the crisis situation is also hurting the repute of institutions amidst internal political wrangling. If political leadership doesn’t come to grips of the critical situation prevailing which is likely to aggravate further in coming days, people of Pakistan in particular and the country in general are likely to suffer unprecedented damage. Political elite must put its acts together and steer the country out of prevalent political and economic crisis by showing sagacity and political wisdom until it’s too late.

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Accusations to Acknowledgement: The Battle of Article 63 A

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The weather is heating up. As the May is ending, Political temperatures are soaring. The fate regarding the country’s political and economic stability will be measured in the upcoming days. Earlier, PDM built momentum by taking on institutions. Maryam Nawaz raised the temperature by targeting key personalities and institutions. Allegations were bursting against the institutions in all dimensions. Today, we witness reversal of roles. Accusations have been outflowing in every Jalsa by PTI. But now suddenly, the “accusations” turned into “acknowledgment”. “Complaints” started transforming into “Compliments”. Is it the change of narrative? Is it another U-turn? Or is it the restoration of confidence in the institutions? Where will this chaos end?

The Supreme Court’s “decision” or as they say “opinion” or “binding” on Article 63 A has raised some pertinent questions on the status of CM Punjab election? In the interpretation of Article 63 A of the constitution, the Supreme court categorically condemns the practice of horse trading by calling it “a cancer afflicting the body politic”. Supreme Court in its decision of 3-2 rejected the vote count of these dissident members against the party directives. So the future of the Chief Executive of Punjab is now under threat because it is contrary to what happened in National Assembly. The political instability continues and the situation is messy.

In light of this verdict, Hamza has a support of 172 MPAs in Punjab assembly but at the same time, he also has 4 dissenting members which draws the figure to 168. Now further moving ahead, PTI and alliance also has a collective figure of 168 votes minus 21 dissenting members. The situation here in Punjab is way too complex now. A support of 186 members is required for a clear majority in Punjab assembly to formulate a government. This current Punjab government can either fall through a governor led vote of no confidence or a Supreme court order. The governor even has a right to dissolve the assembly with his discretionary powers according to Article 112 (2) of the constitution. Supreme Court has already made its decision on cross voting against Party fiat.  Now legal experts are interpreting the decision in their own dictionaries. What will happen in Punjab? What will happen on the federal level? Will there be an election call? If so, what will be the care taker setup? Will there be a fresh mandate? Who will make the hard economic decisions?  Lot needs to be answered in these crucial times.

From “My judges disappointed me” to “Thankyou Supreme Court”, a lot has happened and a lot is ready to take place. Islamabad is full of gossips, interpretations, whispers and predictions these days. There is something seething under this political turmoil. The Red zone is under a lot of pressure whether politically or economically. Pre – Elections, Elections and then Post elections, we have a lot of consequences of a lot of hard decisions. But hard decisions need to be taken. Question is who is ready to make the hard choices? Be Afraid!!

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