Modi's Balochistan salvo is part of his long-term Pakistan strategy

The prime minister has been able to isolate Islamabad completely in the international diplomatic circles.

 |  4-minute read |   25-08-2016
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"When Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes his first step, he knows what will be his fifth step, sometimes even the tenth step", an old aide of Modi has told India Today more than once.

Modi's Balochistan strike against Pakistan appears to be a well thought-out long-term strategy that was discussed with his national security advisor, Ajit Doval, as well as some top-level diplomats and army officials, soon after he took over as the prime minister, and that was kept in the drawer for appropriate use at a later and appropriate time.

The Modi administration started seeing it as a concrete counter measure after the first Pathankot attack and more so after the second Pathankot attack last year following Modi's surprise visit to Islamabad to greet Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, according to sources close to the Prime Minister. 

Also read: Modi has set a new precedent by talking about Balochistan

The idea, initially, was to give full scope to Pakistan to come on board and within that also to give ample opportunity to Nawaz Sharif to have his de-escalation policy on India (as agreed between Modi and Sharif during their initial meetings, starting with the first meeting a day after Modi became the prime minister) ratified by the Pakistan army.

Reportedly, in one of their initial meetings, Sharif had promised action in at least one of the three cases in which Pakistan was shielding Indian terror attack accused - including Zakir ur Rahman Lakhvi, Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Saeed. Modi's hopes soared after the December 2014 Peshawar Army School attack by Tehrik e Taliban in which 148 schoolchildren were killed.

At that point Modi thought that the episode was enough to make Sharif and even the Pakistan army realise that the two countries were facing a terror threat from the same sources - in fact Pakistan's threat perception on terror was higher than India's.

Also read: Modi is frustrated with Pakistan: Stop criticising Balochistan remarks

That was the reason why Modi, in his recent Independence Day speech, referred to India's disgust when its pain on the Peshawar school attack was reciprocated not by peace moves by Pakistan but by terror attacks against India.

i-day-modi-759-embed_082516100138.jpg Narendra Modi at Red Fort on August 15, when he delivered his Balochistan salvo at Pakistan.

When the second terror attack at Pathankot followed Modi's surprise visit to Pakistan on his way back from Afghanistan last December, the Balochistan move almost crystallised, but was held back because of diplomatic thinking that the time was still not ripe.

All this went on while Modi's national security set-up continued to get feedback on the Balochistan situation, apparently with active help from some Baloch separatists, who have in fact been imploring India for quite some time now to intervene on their behalf by openly coming out in support of a separate Balochistan. 

Also read: Modi's Balochistan remark was rather pointless

Says a source in the security establishment: "The prime minister might have given himself six more months, but for the fresh Kashmir imbroglio and Pakistan's role in it. Sharif forgetting all his promises and his raking up the Kashmir issue in the UN and other international forums came as the last straw on the camel's back. That's when Modi decided on his tit-for-tat plan." 

The ground work for the Modi tit-for-tat pan was already on.

Not just Balochistan but his establishment had also managed to find marginal sources in Baltistan and Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmirm who would give correct feedback on the ground situation.

On the other hand Pakistan played truant on India by securing New Delhi's green signal to send an SIT to Pathankot to probe the terror attack at our biggest airforce base, but discouraged an Indian SIT to visit Pakistan in a reciprocal action. In fact, it went far beyond that by rejecting the dossier on the evidence of the involvement of Pakistan-based terrorists provided by India.

Also read: By talking about Balochistan, Modi has put Kashmir in a spot

In the wake of such betrayal, Modi immediately stepped up his efforts to isolate Pakistan in diplomatic circles. This he did in such a manner that Pakistan stood completely isolated in the international community. The distance between Pakistan and the US is now the farthest ever and only China is left as an open Pakistan ally. Modi even managed to partially neutralise Saudi Arabia, itself a Wahabi nation facing the threat of ultra-Wahabism. 

Once armed with the right information from Balochistan, Baltistan and PoK, and contented that Pakistan's isolation was complete in the international community, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose the Red Fort to fire the salvo.  

Modi has brought India back to the days of Mrs Indira Gandhi-style tough stance with Pakistan, when India almost openly supported Baloch separatists. In fact, Mrs Gandhi had built a very strong Indian intelligence presence in Balochistan in that phase.

Writer

Uday Mahurkar Uday Mahurkar @udaymahurkar

The writer is deputy editor, India Today.

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