KARACHI: Lamenting India’s failure to put derailed bilateral relations back on track, experts said New Delhi’s decision to call off high-level talks, as proposed by Islamabad, was a result of “extreme pressure” faced by Indian PM Narendra Modi’s government ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“Modi is under extreme pressure and maybe he will win the upcoming elections by appeasing the extremists but he has lost his credibility as a world leader by negatively responding to a very positive Pakistani call,” Tajammul Altaf, former Ambassador of Pakistan to China and UK, said.
Earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his disappointment at India’s decision to cancel the meeting — between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart, Sushma Swaraj — which was scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York this week.
PM Khan had initiated the idea for the meeting in a letter addressed to PM Modi on September 14. India had agreed to the meeting on Thursday but canceled a day later.
Terming India’s response as “arrogant and negative,” PM Khan took to Twitter to post a strongly-worded comment, wherein he said: “All my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture,” he said.
Reasoning that PM Modi and his party used an anti-Pakistan agenda to strengthen their vote bank in the previous elections, Professor Tahir Malik, an academic and an analyst, blamed hard-liners and hawks within India for the talks being called off. “Modi and his party don’t want to lose their support base just months ahead of the general elections in India,” he said.
Malik said that while there is still a window of opportunity for bilateral talks to resume in the near future, any such proposal would be possible only after the upcoming elections.
Ruing that “this is not the first time that Modi has taken a U-turn,” Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, an Islamabad-based analyst and professor at the School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-e-Azam University, said: “He made a surprise visit of Lahore in December 2015 but as soon as his plane landed in Delhi, his tone changed.”
Drawing attention to Modi’s failed campaign promises, ex-envoy Altaf said that he has nothing new to present to his voters. “The demonetization drive backfired badly and according to the RBI, 99.3% of the money is back,” Altaf said, adding that unemployment has also surged during Modi’s regime, leading to his extreme unpopularity at home.
In the letter written by PM Khan to Modi, he had said that Pakistan was ready to discuss terrorism and that talks on “trade, people-to-people contacts, religious tourism and humanitarian issues were also important.”
Jaspal, however, said he wasn’t very hopeful about the stalled dialogue resuming anytime soon. Reasoning that the cancelation of talks and the upcoming elections were just a cover for a bigger problem, he said that “our history with our neighbor shows that India has never wanted to see a stable Pakistan.”