If you go by the hyperventilating Indian media, the opinionated and noisy section of the television media to be more specific, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aggressive posturing towards Pakistan is a policy masterstroke.
He has served them right, they would tell us, by dragging Balochistan and the legitimacy of Pakistan’s control over Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir into the debate. From now on, Pakistan would be on the defensive while uttering the K-word because it has to justify its activities in Balochistan and the part of Kashmir it occupies. If it wants to internationalise the Kashmir issue then it has to be prepared for the scrutiny of the international community in the cases of the above two regions too. Gone are the days of docile diplomacy when talks and more futile talks would be the only option available to India. So far so good.
But hey, wait. The Prime Minister's decision must have come after much deliberation; the pros and cons of the shift in approach would have been debated well in appropriate circles. But are we going over the board on how Pakistan would react to it or the end result on the Kashmir issue? If some media commentators are to be believed, Pakistan has started cowering already. As its double standard stands exposed, it has nowhere to hide. Such a scenario would perhaps cockle the hearts of the audience at home, but does it really mean much for Pakistan, a rogue state by some definitions?
Responding quickly to the five-point agenda for bilateral talks where India sought discussion on cross-border terrorism among other issues, Pakistan in its missive has spoken of UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir and human rights violation in Kashmir. Its macho response to a macho challenge, no doubt, would have appealed to the domestic audience, like it’s the case with India. In the posturing versus posturing exercise, no side is likely to balk. It involves prestige on both sides and none can afford to withdraw.
Where do we go from now? The experts won’t tell us. If the idea is to shame Pakistan, one wonders whether it has any credibility left to be shamed anymore. International players who could be involved already have dubious equations with the country based on global and regional geopolitical and economic reasons. It would be naive to believe that powers such as the US and China are not already aware of the wretchedness of Pakistan. Raking up Balochistan may earn some propaganda points for India, but it is not likely to make any substantial damage to Pakistan, which is already a near-broken state trapped as it is in its own inherent existential contradictions.
If the idea is to take advantage of the trouble in PoK as well as Balochistan by extending moral and other support to rebellions there and keep Pakistan’s establishment, particularly the military, busy and distracted from Kashmir, such things are not discussed in the open. Such an exercise might look like apt poetic justice for the audience at home, but it effectively takes away the moral high ground India occupies on Kashmir. Tit-for-tat responses have their limitations. Mature countries go about these cleverly, not make announcements on the public address system.
The short point here is the excitement over the policy shift is highly exaggerated. The present media discourse does not offer us any hint on the logical next step. It does not make us any wiser on how the new approach is going to solve the Kashmir problem. Modi’s real masterstroke could be a work in progress, hidden from public view. What we have so far is only posturing.