Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to power with a thumping majority. His anti-Pakistan rhetoric, banking on his political rivals’ weaknesses and maintaining a harsh stance on Indian-occupied Kashmir – ignoring its indigenous freedom struggle – seems to have paid off.
However, can he carry on selling his anti-Pakistan narrative to his domestic and overseas voter-base for the next five years?
This is because, just like its neighbor, Pakistan, India needs to focus on and fight against poverty, illiteracy and unemployment.
In India, more than 700 million people are earning less than $3 a day, with scores of farmers committing suicides in the last four years.
However, it is not only poverty that ails India.
The unleashed “Hindutva” genie may also turn out to be a disintegrating force for multi-cultural, secular and multi-religious India. One wishes that India had learnt from Pakistan’s disastrous experience of playing the religious card, both in state and political affairs, however, it seems that it is too late for such a realisation in India.
In India, Hindu Nationalism has replaced secularism, which might ultimately turn into a menace of extremism, getting out of everyone’s reach and control.
Therefore, PM Modi needs to bury the electoral rhetoric of “minority hate” and pursue course correction to brace himself for the next five years in order to deliver as a statesman.
Moreover, his rhetoric against Pakistan would not sustain for long as well. He could have changed the “negative mood” surrounding both the countries, however, he missed that boat by not inviting his Pakistani counterpart for his oath-taking ceremony, making an unhealthy diplomatic start to his second term.
When it comes to his policy on Kashmir, revoking articles 370 and 35A in the Indian-occupied Kashmir can turn out to be a fatal mistake. Therefore, looking for a negotiated settlement for the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan should be accorded priority, which may also raise Modi’s status as a leader.
As expressed by Pakistani PM Imran Khan, a strong political government in India may well be in a position to look for “out of the box” solutions for all outstanding issues between both the countries. And Modi’s simple majority and mass popularity may enable him to do just that.
Pakistani leadership also needs to sit back and watch how Modi’s policy road-map unfolds during his second term in the office. Only then can Pakistan formulate a well-thought-out policy that aims for settlement of bilateral disputes, but is also cognizant of the fact that bilateralism has not helped in dispute resolution so far.
Hence, both India and Pakistan also need to look towards mutual partners – such as Russia and China – to play intermediaries in dispute resolution.
The PTI and BJP governments can both create history by dusting off old files left behind by Musharraf and Vajpayee, which might hold the key for improved ties between both the neighbours.
Let us keep our fingers crossed for peace, stability and prosperity in the region!
The author, Major Gen. Ijaz Hussain Awan, is a retired military officer and a security and defence analyst.
In arrangement with MatrixMag