Mon, Feb 20, 2017 | updated 08:58 PM IST

Modi launches PoK missile from Red Fort, and then this happened

Updated: Aug 17, 2016 16:46 IST

By Smita Prakash

New Delhi, Aug.17 (ANI): There is a lot of discomfort in many quarters after the surprising, some say even shocking mention of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Balochistan in Prime Minister Modi's Independence Day address to the nation from the Red Fort.

Keen observers of Red Fort speeches of Prime Ministers had a suspicion that Mr. Modi would talk about Kashmir and maybe mention Pakistan's meddling in India's internal affairs.

Well that would have been par for course for any Prime Minister. But if anything one has learnt about the past two NDA years is that one should expect the unexpected from Mr. Modi. He is not a status quo Prime Minister.

And that applies one hundred percent with regard to engagements with Pakistan. Those who have been reporting on the complex relationship are a bit disturbed over the constant changing of goal posts in the past two years. From inviting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the cabinet swearing in May 2014, to suddenly dropping by in Lahore to wish the Pakistan Premier a Happy Birthday, to now firing the Baloch missile, expect the unexpected.

Reporters and analysts who are in the comfort zone of predictability with small maneuvers have to be on their toes now, recalibrating their responses.

There has been a spate of articles in both India and Pakistan denouncing Prime Minister Modi's mention of PoK and Balochistan in his speech, terming it as sabre rattling with Pakistan.

Some unnamed former foreign secretaries spoke to reporters on background that the overt mention of support to Baloch and Gilgit separatists was quite unnecessary when the situation in the Kashmir Valley is volatile and ground support for India is fast dissipating. Some of the points that come up in articles and social media posts are these:

----Let's get our Kashmir sorted out before we look at sorting out problems in PoK:

Inherently, there is no 'first this' 'then that' when it comes to international relations. You pursue your agenda regardless of how the domestic side is being handled. For e.g. Nehru went ahead with Panchsheel, Mrs. Gandhi with the war that created Bangladesh, Rajiv Gandhi visited Pakistan and Dr. Singh with the nuclear agreement. They didn't wait for the Dravidian agitation to settle down, for Nagas to give up their secessionist movement, for Khalistan separatism to die down, for Naxals to stop blowing up schools and roads. India will always have problems and Kashmir isn't going to be the land of milk and honey for some time. So, cannot put stuff on hold while Kashmir gets sorted out.

----Leave PoK to Pakistan, why needle an already aggressive, war mongering neighbour

Giving in to a bully is the worst form of cowardice. At times you can allow for a little leeway to see the bully punch his own nose. Pakistan has been going to every international forum, almost on a daily basis, for the past one month maligning India on the Kashmir agitation. Besides, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his advisor Sartaj Aziz writing to everybody in the UN, EU, OIC and random international bodies, the Pakistani diplomatic corps has been on a single point mission of focusing on human rights violations in Kashmir. Even journalists from Pakistan have swamped press conferences at the EU and US State department for quotes denouncing India. It is a heavy-duty propaganda war to add to the proxy war that Pakistan has overtly launched this summer. Do you ignore and allow the mudslinging to continue or do you prove that the other side doesn't have a leg to stand on? Clearly the Modi government has chosen the latter.

Also how do you leave PoK to Pakistan? You have a parliamentary resolution that categorically states that all of Jammu and Kashmir belongs to India. The previous administrations decided to ignore this and not bring it up in any of the bilateral talks besides a cursory mention. That is set to change now. If anything the Parliament debate on Kashmir and the Home Minister's visit to Islamabad showed that no party wants a roll back of India's position on PoK. That debate probably gave the confidence to the Indian Prime Minister to say what he did.

----It is a new war game that India has agreed to be part of

What is India supposed to do if Pakistan continues with its proxy war and shows no signs of backing off? Stand on its high moral ground while a fire is lit at the feet? Kashmir is burning and Pakistan is adding fuel to fire. Paying locals to attack security forces, encouraging children to come to the streets to throw stones, glorifying Kashmiri terrorists, sending in terrorists to funeral processions in Kashmir to encourage pro-Pakistan and anti-India sentiments - how much is one supposed to 'tolerate'? India has a problem of enormous proportions in Kashmir. It has to be tackled at various fronts and one of them certainly is to deal with Pakistan. Sometimes tough, sometimes soft. But off late it does seem that Pindi won't be calling the shots every time any more.

----He could have spoken on PoK but why Balochistan? Now Pakistan has ammo.

True, Pakistan will now go to town to say they were right in saying that India fuelled attacks in Balochistan. Even if you say that India didn't provide man or material, they anyway will say what they want to. Pakistan is a country that denied that Bin Laden and Mullah Omar were in their territory. They continue to say Dawood isn't there.

Mr. Modi just made a non-specific reference to Balochistan. The inference many have deduced is that India supports the secessionists in Balochistan. India has not officially made any statement to that effect. What it has indicated to Pakistan is that you have to sort out your issues in Balochistan, and since there is a secessionist movement there and they kind of like us Indians and want our support; it may be something that we may want to consider. Think about it. Somewhat like moral and diplomatic support to the Baloch cause? If Pakistan backs off it would give breathing room for India in Kashmir. That might work, or might not.

----This government has no Pakistan plan. How does Modi plan to take it forward?

Firstly, it is no state secret that no Indian government has had a Pakistan plan. It is quite impossible to have one with a country that you have fought four wars with. If you stretch out your arm in Lutyen's Delhi you will be in striking distance of a Pakistan specialist. Everybody knows how to deal with Pakistan and can advise the government and the PMO. So, how are Prime Ministers supposed to deal with Pakistan? Either go strictly by advice given to him or her by the bureaucracy, somewhat like Dr. Singh's style or Narasimha Rao. Or else think out of the box like I.K. Gujral or A.B. Vajpayee and it appears, Narendra Modi. Whether the mention of PoK and Balochistan means a sustained plan of action is something one has to watch to see.

In conclusion, the unpredictability of the Modi's government's Pakistan negotiations is causing anxiety to many. The most recent being the uncertainty over India's response to invitations from Pakistan to the Finance Minister for the SAARC meeting and to the Foreign Secretary to talk on Kashmir. Will they, won't they. Everybody has a source based news report. But nobody can be quite sure. (ANI)

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