By Imtiaz Gul
Respectable Narendara Modi! Congratulations on your historic landslide victory!
You have literally mauled the opposition and delivered yet another deadly blow to the Nehru dynasty and underlining the fact that time for political dynasties in South Asia is probably up.
That is a big stride forward in a country which is politically more polarised than ever before. Your post victory tweet that ‘together we will build a strong and inclusive India’ inspires hope that your second tenure will centre on reconciliation, inclusion and cohesion. That is great news for India.
But now that you have successfully translated your personal popularity into a thumping win, huge domestic and external challenges await you.
One of them is relations with Pakistan, which figured as a very prominent subject in your entire election campaign, which underscores the importance of the neighbour, even if most of Indians pretend not to accord it any importance at all.
Most here in Pakistan wonder as to whether and to what extent do the exchange of goodwill messages via Twitter between yourself and PM Imran Khan Thursday evening augurs well for the stalled bilateral relations?
Mr. Prime Minister, being an optimist, I would say this exchange has rekindled some hope for three major reasons:
Firstly, as the most popular leader in India today, the peace loving civil society here expects that Prime Minister Modi, on the back of the massive mandate, would like to turn a fresh page, and thus leave behind a different legacy in its relations with Pakistan. Leaving footprints on the external front is equally as important as delivering on promises made to the 600 million voters.
Secondly, brinkmanship in relations with next door neighbours has not only a limited shelf life but also counter-productive in the broader regional context. One would hope that you would move beyond the acrimony that intensified particularly after the arrest of Kulboshan Jadhav in early 2016. The conduct of statesmen Modi must be different from that of a strategist like Ajit Doval, who will remain wedded to his strategies, independent of the pressures that statesmen face as peoples’ representatives.
World over, states conduct with other states out of their own interests and not the preference for individuals within governance structures. It will be a great confidence building measure (CBM) to inject fresh minds into the cabinet – as far as ties with Pakistan are concerned. This would amount to translating your positive tweet message to PM Khan in to practice.
Thirdly, who will be more familiar with the social complexities, and their political fallout than yourself? We share the same socio-political contexts, albeit governed by different governance regimes because of different post 1947 political histories.
Here in south Asia, often, principles get compromised for fear of a blow-back or out of political expedience. This is what Pakistan is currently experiencing. And this is what you may want to take into consideration.
Mr. Prime Minister, already, under the microscopic scrutiny of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Pakistan is trying hard to gradually move from a security to a normal state. The FATF 27 Point Action Plan sets out a plan that is gradually going into implementation. The dominant majority of Pakistanis are desperate to see this transition from security to normal state succeeds. And we are all contributing in our own ways to make it happen.
And herein lies the glimmer of hope; while Pakistan is going through a reset, your government can help it pursue this path by stepping down from your thus far hard-line posturing towards Pakistan. This will create space for vigorously implementing reforms that we all here crave for. And that will create space for a more collaborative, inclusive and trust-based bilateral relationship.
Imtiaz Gul – author, Editor in Chief, Matrix Mag, and Executive Director CRSS.
In arrangement with MatrixMag