For years, the centre of India’s foreign policy was Pakistan. Love it or hate it. This was the country that the external affairs ministry had to break its head over most of the times. You can’t brush off four wars (1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999), two conflicts (Rann of Kutch and Siachen), militancy in Kashmir that claimed tens of thousands of lives and terrorist attacks all over India.
More importantly, Pakistan held the trump cards when it came to America, China, Afghanistan and the entire Arab world. All these countries would always favour Pakistan over India. We had Russia on our side but even it became neutral with the collapse of communism in 1991.
Detractors are laughing at how Prime Minister Narendra Modi is touring one country after another like a mere tourist. He is being ridiculed as a non-resident Prime Minister. However, his visits are already paying rich dividends. Here’s how.
For one, Modi is snatching away Pakistan’s allies one by one. The first is America. Ever since US President Barack Obama took over, he didn’t care two hoots for India. That has drastically changed. The Obama-Modi bromance is being talked about all over the world.
In one meet, Obama ran to Modi, held his hands and called him a "man of action". Modi's stance at the recently concluded climate talks in Paris was greatly appreciated by Obama and one environmental news website even called Modi as the "Man who saved the world".
More importantly, the results are already coming in. The dead Indo-US nuclear deal was revived and hectic parleying over both strategic and economic ties are taking place.
China is similarly being engaged and trade deals are being inked left, right and centre. India has taken an aggressive stand against border incursions and China is known to respect a tough adversary.
Afghanistan is being engaged too and Modi’s recent visit was a landmark.
Tweeted Habib Khan Totakhil, a Wall Street Journal reporter in Kabul...
The difference between a Muslim neighbor & a Hindu friend: India builds parliament building for Afghanistan, Pakistan creates Taliban.— Habib Khan Totakhil (@HabibKhanT) December 25, 2015
That’s the kind of change happening which is changing the perception as far as India is concerned.
A watershed event is our engagement with the Arab world. A red carpet welcome awaited Modi in UAE, where more than one of the rulers of the Emirates came to receive him, a rarity. Trade ties were taken forward and terror was discussed.
Don Dawood Ibrahim may have his home in Pakistan, but his office is in Dubai. Modi has conveniently bypassed Pakistan and got UAE to squeeze Dawood’s operations in Dubai. A few terror suspects have already been deported to India and an accused in the AugustaWestland scam has been located.
Bangladesh (which shares a love-hate relationship with Pakistan) is being engaged and they have started extraditing militants. Shutting Pakistan’s terror camps will go a long way in neutralising Pakistan. (Again we are bypassing them).
For that, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has to be given due credit. He is discussed more on Pakistani TV channels than Indian ones.
Modi has visited other Muslim countries like Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Modi is isolating Pakistan in the Muslim world itself and that’s a big handicap for our neighbour.
Interestingly, we are making progress with every country in West Asia. What are the chances that a country can significantly hike ties with both Israel and Muslim countries? Modi is doing just that. They may be rivals, but both of them want to do business with India. That’s just the way Modi is engaging both America and China, despite their rivalry.
Modi has thrown the zero sum game in the dustbin which had been plaguing the sub-continent. He can engage with everyone simultaneously. This is without mentioning countries like Australia, Germany, Canada, Brazil etc, where our ties are way ahead of Pakistan.
If you analyse the way we are engaging with countries like Myanmar and Bhutan, the encirclement of Pakistan is complete. It is a classical strategy of surrounding your enemy and isolating it. Of course, it’s not a military tactic but a diplomatic one!
Modi’s biggest trump card is trade. Both the British Empire and the US superpower dominated not on military might alone, but trade too. It’s the economy stupid! India has overtaken China in GDP growth rate and Modi is making India irresistible for every country in the world.
The Chabahar Port in Iran is just one small example.
In the future, Pakistan may be forced to make peace because, potentially, India could be Pakistan’s biggest trading partner.
It’s not all Modi. He has dollops of luck on his side. India-hater Mahinda Rajapaksa lost in Sri Lanka and India is weaning the island nation away from China towards itself. Russian president Vladimir Putin is flexing his muscles on the world stage and counting on India.
After the spat with Turkey, a top official flew down to India to offer Turkey-related business to India and we accepted. Indo-Russia ties could go back to the pre-1991 days without any problems with America and China.
Pakistan is no longer what it was. Pakistan occupied Kashmir is witnessing protests for reunification with India. The Balochistan independence movement is gaining ground. The war in North Waziristan has claimed the lives of 6,000 Pakistani military personnel and 30,000 terrorists and rages on without an end in sight.
Thanks to this, the Pakistani Army is jaded and for the first time in ages has agreed to join Indo-Pak talks should their representatives be called. More than 60,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed in terrorist attacks since 9/11.
The death-rate in Kashmir militancy has crashed in the 2010s, thanks to all of the above.
There is a famous saying which first appeared in the essays of Francis Bacon, "If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain." The way our foreign policy is shaping up, we won’t have to go to Pakistan.
Pakistan may well be forced to come to us with a workable peace offering.
For that Modi has already shown that he is accessible. He invited Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif to India for his swearing in, met him on the sidelines of summits and recently visited Lahore when he was invited at extremely short notice.
The sight of Modi and Sharif hugging and then walking hand in hand like a couple of schoolboys was a sight to behold.
Our foreign policy is working and Modi should just keep at it!