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MODI 3.0 and Indo-Pak Relations

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In the aftermath of elections in one of the largest democracies, the ruling party, the BJP, failed to secure majority seats, as it had expected, but successfully formed the government. The implications of Prime Minister Modi’s third term are widely debated, particularly in the context of Indo-Pak relations. Is there any possibility of re-engagement? Will Modi 3.0 make peace with Pakistan? Pakistan’s political elites appear keen on repairing ties with India. However, considering global politics, Indo-Pacific policy, Pak-China relations, and India’s internal issues, prospects for bilateral engagement remain dim.

First, global politics has always affected relations between both countries. For instance, right after independence, Pakistan’s alignment with the West and India’s relations with the USSR put both countries at loggerheads. Similarly, even today, global politics has a major role to play in determining relations between both countries. If Donald Trump secures re-election in the upcoming US elections, which is very likely, global politics may shift inward, leading to a global rise in nationalism again. Trump’s overt policies against China, including his Indo-Pacific strategy, could hinder India-Pakistan reconciliation. Pakistan’s alignment with China and India’s strategic partnership with the USA further complicate matters. Trump’s comeback would not bode well for Indo-Pak relations. In these circumstances, re-engagement between India and Pakistan is least expected.

The Indo-Pacific region holds undeniable importance for the USA, with the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) emerging as a key theater in Cold War 2.0. Currently, the USA’s attention is diverted due to conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza. However, countering China necessitates renewed focus on the IOR. Professor John Mearsheimer, a prominent international relations scholar, warns that the USA is ensnared in a Thucydides trap, so it cannot afford to divert its attention from the Indo-Pacific. Western scholars perceive Pakistan as aligned with China—a regional hegemon—while India seeks regional hegemony against China, putting India and Pakistan at odds. Given their roles in the Indo-Pacific framework, prospects for peace between India and Pakistan remain bleak.

Furthermore, India’s recent election outcome exacerbates the situation. Prime Minister Modi, after his failure to get a clear majority, may adopt a more rigid stance towards Pakistan to consolidate support around the BJP’s anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan agenda. With grassroots-level support lacking, the BJP may aim to penetrate rural India with its message. This means that the anti-Pakistan mantra of the BJP may continue, making bilateral re-engagement a distant dream.

The Kashmir issue remains a significant obstacle to peace. Since August 2019, Pakistan has diplomatically boycotted India following the revocation of Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. In the recent elections, Modi’s close associate, Home Minister Amit Shah, publicly asserted that “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) is part of India, and we will take it.” Such statements indicate the BJP’s unwavering position on Kashmir. Given these circumstances, re-engagement between Pakistan and India seems impossible.

To foster re-engagement, Pakistan must adopt a neutral foreign policy, avoiding bloc politics. Balancing relations between the USA and China is crucial. A de-hyphenated approach—one that rectifies ties with the USA—will help Pakistan remain relevant in the Indo-Pacific. Additionally, resolving the Kashmir issue is essential before any meaningful dialogue with India can occur. Without a fundamental shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy, prospects for bilateral re-engagement remain slim.

In conclusion, the aspirations of political leadership, including the PMLN and others, to foster engagement with India will not translate into enhanced bilateral relations unless there is a thorough examination and strategic action based on the fundamental dynamics of international politics, the Indo-Pacific geopolitical landscape, and the regional contest for dominance. It is imperative that these elements are meticulously assessed and addressed to facilitate any meaningful progress in the relationship between the two nations.

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