Narendra Modi capable of extending Vajpayee-like "hand of friendship" to Pakistan: Expert

Updated: Aug 27, 2014, 15:37 PM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had departed from his reputation of being belligerent by inviting Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi. Subsequently, an exchange of gifts between the leaders of two neighbouring countries took place - a shawl for Sharif's mother from Modi, and a white sari for Indian PM's mother from his Pakistani counterpart.

However, the warmth between PM Modi and Sharif could not sustain for long. Repeated ceasefire violations by the Pakistani troops along the Line of Control and the meeting between Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and Kashmiri separatists pushed the NDA government to cancel the Foreign Secretary-level talks.

In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of Zee Media, Daniel S Markey, an expert on South Asia, discusses the ties between India and Pakistan post Narendra Modi's ascension to power and recent ceasefire incidents across the Line of Control.

Daniel S Markey is senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where he specialises in security and governance issues in South Asia.

Kamna: Does the increasing number of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control indicate that Prime Minister's 'shawl diplomacy' has failed?

Mr Markey: "Failed" is too strong a (word), but I think it is clear that a friendly first step by the new Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) would never have been enough to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough with Pakistan.

Kamna: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cancelled Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan. According to some experts, his move may indirectly help in strengthening the Pakistani Army and ISI's hold. Do you agree with such an observation?

Mr Markey: I think that the Army's hold over Pakistan's foreign and defence policy is already very strong, regardless of what minor diplomatic steps India takes. The decision to cancel the talks sends a tough message, but it is not a calamity and India should not be held responsible for Pakistan's internal dynamics.

Kamna: Is the aggression by Pakistan connected with the ongoing political turmoil within the South Asian country?

Mr Markey: It is difficult to determine the connections between Pakistan's policies on its border with India and its ongoing political turmoil. The crucial point here is that much of what the Army does is - and almost always has been - largely beyond the control of Pakistan's civilian politicians, and that is even more the case when the civilian leadership is distracted by other issues.

Kamna: Keeping in mind his stand against Pakistan while he was in the Opposition, do you think PM Modi will be able to mix toughness with talks in dealing with Pakistan as done by Atal Bihari Vajpayee?

Mr Markey: Everyone in Washington certainly hopes this will be the case. It will be a difficult balancing act, but Modi does have the benefit of strong domestic support and credentials as a hawk, so he may be able to extend a Vajpayee-like "hand of friendship" in ways that were next-to-impossible for (former) PM (Dr Manmohan) Singh.

Kamna: Can Pakistan be ever stopped from indulging in “proxy wars” against India?

Mr Markey: Yes, but only when Pakistan's military leadership sees these activities as too costly, starts to appreciate the potential benefits of peace, and is confident enough not to equate the end of war with "capitulation”. This is not the case now.

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