Igniting Hopes: BJP’s election win will confirm revival of Indo-Pak ties

Indo Pak relations historically owe most of their acrimony to the Congress Sub

 

 

It might sound astonishing to many, but history shows that arch rivals India and Pakistan have always come closer when the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing nationalist party, was ruling India.

In fact, relations between the two nuclear powers reached their nadir, when the Congress party, considered centrist by many, was at the helm of affairs.

One must keep in mind that after the British left India in 1947 after Partition,it has been the Congress party which always remained in power, barring nine years and about two months, when the BJP ruled in 1996 (for 13 days), in 1998 (to April 1999), in October 1999 (to May 2004) and finally in May 2014 (to 2019).

Therefore, Indo Pak relations historically owe most of their acrimony to the Congress. In fact, the BJP won a full majority only once in 2014 under the leadership of Narendra Modi when it secured 282 seats in the general assembly elections.

In fact, relations between the two nuclear powers reached their nadir, when the Congress party, considered centrist by many, was at the helm of affairs.

The main issue of contention between the two neighbours is Jammu and Kashmir. Both countries fought four wars over it in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999, excluding the most recent escalation in February 2019 which was not considered a war. It is pertinent to note that except for Kargil all these wars with Pakistan have been fought when the Congress party was leading India.

Significantly, it was the Congress that assisted the secessionists of the erstwhile East Pakistan to carve Bangladesh out of Pakistan in 1971. There are too many other politico-strategic developments during Congress rule when Indo Pak relations went from bad to the worse to detail them all here. Instead, one should recognise the positive developments occurring between India and Pakistan, and the role BJP had played in them.

 

  1. The first major positive development in Indo Pak relations was in 1999 when the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee rode a bus to Pakistan’s historic city of Lahore and met with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to sign a peace accord. This was the year when Nawaz Sharif said: “Vajpayee Sb could now win an election in Pakistan.” It also was when Vajpayee opined that one could not change one’s neighbors.
  1. In 2001, General Pervez Musharraf, after ousting the Nawaz Government in a coup, visited India for negotiations in an effort to resolve the conflict between the two countries. To that end, Vajpayee and Musharraf met in Agra to finalize the peace accord. It is common knowledge that during the Agra Summit an agreement was almost reached but scuttled by some bureaucrats.
  1. Later in 2002, there was another ray of hope for millions in both countries when Musharraf shook hands with Vajpayeeat the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit at Kathmandu wherein leaders from 7 south Asian countries participated.
  1. Similarly, in 2004, an outstanding attempt was made by the two countries when Musharraf and Vajpayee again revived bilateral relations in an effort to settle all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. As part of a visit, Vajpayee recited his mesmerizing poem “Ab Jung Na Hone Denge Hum” (We will not allow war to happen) during one of his speeches.
  1. In another historic moment in 2005, Lal Krishan Advani of the BJP, while standing before Jinnah’s tomb in Pakistan,described the founder of Pakistan as a secular man and an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. Similar views about Jinnah were expressed by Jaswant Singh, the former Finance Minister of India, in 2009.
  1. Following in the footsteps of Vajpayee and reviving hope in many, the newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to New Delhi for his inauguration ceremony.
  1. It came as a complete surprise when in 2015 Modi went a step further and visited the Pakistani city of Lahore on the occasion of Nawaz Sharif’s birthday and to participate in the marriage ceremony of his granddaughter. The gesture was appreciated all over the world.
  1. Fresh hopes were sparked in 2015 when Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif met on the sidelines of a regional summit (BRICS and SCO) in the Russian town of Ufa. The talks signalled a fresh start to the stalled bilateral dialogue process between the two countries.
  1. This was followed by the high-profile meeting of Indian NSA AjitDoval and his counterpart Lt. General Nasir Khan Janjua, in Bangkok in 2017. It was another attempt at rebuilding the torn ties.
  1. Even after the Pulwama suicide attack in which over 40 Indian soldiers were killed, and after which both countries were on the verge of a another war, Modi sent his Pakistani counterpart greetings on the National Day of Pakistan.

“I extend my greetings and best wishes to the people of Pakistan on the National Day of Pakistan. It is time that people of subcontinent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive and prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence,” the message read. It was welcomed by Pakistan, and Imran Khan responded “I welcome PM Modi’s message to our people. As we celebrate Pakistan Day, I believe it is time to begin a comprehensive dialogue with India to address and resolve all issues, especially the central issue of Kashmir.”

According to this track record of the BJP, one can certainly hope that India and Pakistan may come closer again, as mentioned by Imran Khan in an interview in April, wherein he stated that ‘if Modi comes to power again, some kind of settlement in Kashmir could be reached.”

He seems to believe that the BJP, unlike the Congress, being a strong right-wing party with a hard-line support base may be able to initiate dialogue on all issues with Pakistan, including Kashmir, without alienating its domestic constituency. This is why when the BJP rules India, one can have more hopes about the conflict resolution process between India and Pakistan.

Dr.Mujahid Mughal is an Assistant Professor of Geography in the Higher Education Department, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, India.

He can be contacted at www.facebook.com/mujahidm1, mughalmujahid24@gmail.com

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