When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in on May 26th 2014, people expected an uptick in relations. Something was expected from the charismatic leader to break the logjam and breathe fresh air into the relations between the frosty neighbours. However, four years after the massive bear hug at the ceremony, how much has really changed?
The warmth visible on that Monday afternoon did not translate into real improvements on the ground. Three months into power, the Government called off the dialogue process with Pakistan. The match that lit the fuse? The Pakistani delegations meeting with Kashmiri Separatists, a long practiced tradition in Indo-Pak dialogue. A few border skirmishes and some border dialogue later we were back at square one.
2015 brought along with it a number of ceasefire violations. Pakistan’s attempt to to hold elections in the contested Giligit-Baltistan region drew strong reactions from the Ministry of External Affairs. It was in 2015 that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) came into the picture. It is a $46 billion dollar highway that travels through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. This, coupled with Pakistan’s predatory lending practices, to which other third world countries have succumbed, alarmed the Indian Government. To counter this, the Modi Government was quick to quick to negotiate the Chabahar port agreement with Iran.
In mid-2015, the warm meeting between the two Prime Ministers at the Ufa summit in Shanghai brought hope again. 15 days later, the gruesome terrorist attack in Gurdaspur derailed any hopes of dialogue. As 2015 was coming to an end, a surprise was in store for observers. On December 25th, when Prime Minister Modi was in Kabul to inaugurate the newly built Afghan Parliament, he surprised everyone by announcing a surprise stopover at Lahore to meet his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on his birthday. It was the first time in 11 years that an Indian Prime Minister was visiting Pakistan. This meeting was the fruit of the meetings between the two national Security Advisors in Bangkok.
Things seemed better, as it looked like Mr. Modi had done his magic and ‘achche din’ had finally come, for Indo-Pak ties at least. This illusion was shattered with the Pathankot terror attack. It recalled the memories of 1999 when the then PM Vajpayee visited Lahore to reinvigorate ties but his return to India was greeted by the Indo-Pak war, followed by an army coup in Pakistan which overthrew the then PM Nawaz Sharif.
This derailed the peace process, with talks being postponed. Talks were resumed again on April 26th and the point of contention was the investigation in attacks. India’s attempts to declare Masood Azhar a terrorist were met with repeated roadblocks in the form Chinese opposition.
On September 18th, the deadliest attack on Security forces in Kashmir in two decades took place in Uri. India and the rest of the world, who were used to the diplomatic maneuvers of the Modi Government, were in for a surprise, as on 29 September, eleven days after the Uri attack, the Indian army conducted ‘surgical strikes’ against suspected militants in Pakistani-administered Kashmir. Indian media reported that 35 to 70 terrorists had been killed. People expected a tougher stance and a more timid Pakistan after this, however border skirmishes continued for the rest of 2016.
Border skirmishes kept the Government on its toes, along with the Baramulla Attack, the Nagrota attack and the Amarnath Yatra attack. On 29th November, Qamar Javed Bajwa was appointed Chief of Army Staff, the most powerful post in the military establishment. Bajwa is expected to have a more dovish stance on India, but that hasn’t translated into any real action on the ground.
On 28th July 2017, Nawaz Sharif was removed from office on corruption charges, rendering any personal chemistry between him and Mr. Modi moot.
Since September 2016, 51 civilians and 54 soldiers have died on the Indian side and 235–237 soldiers killed on the Pakistan side, the above numbers being India’s claim. On 29th May 2018, the Indian and Pakistani Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs), agreed to fully implement the 2003 Ceasefire pact. While encouraging, it is unclear how long this peace will last. A number of flashy high profile incidents aside, are we back to where we were four years earlier?
– Shaaban Karim