Is the Modi govt running out of patience with Pakistan?

Modi govt’s silence over the deaths of some 70 people in a terror attack on a hospital in Quetta reveals the chill in India-Pakistan ties


Ties between India and Pakistan are under strain at the moment because Pakistan described Burhan Wani, a Hizbul militant, as a Kashmiri leader. File Photo: AFP
Ties between India and Pakistan are under strain at the moment because Pakistan described Burhan Wani, a Hizbul militant, as a Kashmiri leader. File Photo: AFP

New Delhi: Its been customary for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to express condolence at terror attacks in Pakistan.

Sample these: Modi condemning the terror attack at Peshawar University in Pakistan in January in a Twitter post which said: “Strongly condemn the terror attack at Bacha Khan University in Pakistan. Condolences to families of the deceased. Prayers with the injured,”

And in March, Modi called up his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif and offered his “deep condolences” to the victims of the terror attack in Lahore, which has left some 70 people dead, mostly women and children.

And of course one remembers how Modi slammed a Pakistan Taliban attack on an army school in Peshawar in December 2014 in which some 140 people including 132 students were killed as “a senseless act of unspeakable brutality.” Modi also sent National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to meet the Pakistani high commissioner in New Delhi Abdul Basit and sign the condolence book.

Which brings up the question why has Modi been silent over the deaths of some 70 people in a terror attack on a hospital at Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province on Monday.

There can be many explanations, of course.

One: Pakistan has always pointed a finger at India for allegedly supporting a Baloch separatist movement—something India has denied. Indeed, according to a report in the Hindustan Times of Tuesday, the Quetta attack was blamed on India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analyses Wing or RAW. So may be silence is the best course of action in this case?

Second: Ties between India and Pakistan are under strain at the moment thanks to Pakistan describing Burhan Wani—whom India considers a militant belonging to the Hizbul Mujahideen group—as a Kashmiri leader. Wani was shot by Indian security forces in early July. At least 55 people have been killed as Indian security forces tried to quell protests that erupted in Kashmir. Irking India has been the fact that Pakistan marked 20 July as Black Day to protest what it called Indian human rights abuses in Kashmir. Besides this, it also reached out to the international community to highlight the plight of the Kashmiris. Last month Sharif also said “Kashmir will one day become Pakistan,” a comment which evoked a sharp reaction from external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in its entirety but administer it in parts. Kashmir has been the trigger for three of the four wars between the two countries since 1947.

Third: India could be upset with the way the Pakistan government handled the visit of Indian home minister Rajnath Singh to Islamabad. Singh who arrived in Rawalpindi by a special aircraft had to use a chopper to fly to Islamabad given that there were massive protests in Pakistan over his visit. The Pakistani protests were tied to the situation in Kashmir. Singh was in Pakistan for a South Asian home ministers’ meet. And his visit there was seen as a sign of India’s commitment to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC.

A fourth explanation could be that the Modi government—after allowing Pakistan a long rope—is finally reaching the end of its tether and wearying of Pakistan’s approach to terrorism—ie closing a blind eye to militant attacks in India while seeking to curb extremist and militant elements at home. India has been demanding that Pakistan bring to justice the perpetrators of the 2 January attack on the Pathankot airbase but so far there seems to have been little progress made. The hope generated by a phone call made by Nawaz Sharif to Modi in the aftermath of the Pathankot attack in which the former promised to investigate any Pakistani links to the airbase raid was subsequently nullified with very little evidence of action on the ground in Pakistan against those whom India blamed. That the attack came a week after Modi landed in Lahore for a surprise visit on Christmas Day did not help matters.

Plus India has been capturing Pakistan trained militants targeting India. The latest such capture took place last month when one militant who said his name was Bahadur Ali, son of Mohamed. Haneef and a resident of Jia Bagga village of Raiwind in Lahore district of Punjab in Pakistan, fell into the hands of Indian security personnel in Kupwara in Indian Kashmir.

Last year, India had captured Mohammed Naved of Pakistan’s Faislabad area who had infiltrated into India—whom Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had threatened to parade before Pakistani leaders if they presented India with dossiers of alleged involvement in the insurgency in Balochistan.

In an interview to Times Now news channel, Modi gave a glimpse of the complex nature of dealing with Pakistan.

“Look there are different types of forces operating in Pakistan. But the [Indian] government only engages with a democratically elected system. Our effort for that engagement is continuing. But our supreme objective is peace. Our supreme objective is to protect India’s interests,” Modi said.

In response to another question on redlines or “Lakshman Rekha” for dealing with Pakistan, Modi said “The first thing is that with Pakistan, to whom do we talk to decide about the ‘Lakshman Rekha. Will it be with the elected government or with other actors? That is why India will have to be on alert all the time.”

Conclusion? Perhaps the Modi government is finally running out of patience with Pakistan? And silence on the Quetta attack is perhaps the best option?

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