Indian government is raging at Pakistan again—here's a look at its policy so far

Indian government is raging at Pakistan again—here's a look at its policy so far
  • The Pulwama terror attack may set back any possibility of peace talks between India and Pakistan.

  • Indian government’s policy towards Pakistan has been inconsistent so far.

  • The sting of the Indian rhetoric against Pakistan has been more consistent on Twitter than at the level of the government.

  • However, neither India’s spurts of aggression nor its periodic pacifism have changed Pakistan’s patronage for terror groups.
Forty five paramilitary soldiers lost their lives in Pulwama, Kashmir on Thursday in a terror attack, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi called ‘dastardly’, and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley promised an ‘unforgettable lesson’ for the perpetrators.

“A befitting reply will be given to the perpetrators of the heinous attack and their patrons,” the Indian prime minister said on Friday.

The Indian government is blaming Pakistan-- Islamabad has denied any links-- for enabling the terrorists behind the deadly attacks in Kashmir. India has revoked the most favoured nation status-- which offers beneficial trade terms-- given to Pakistan in the wake of the attacks in Pulwama. However, aside from the reactionary outbursts soon after such attacks in the recent past, India’s policy, towards its troublesome neighbour on the West, has appeared incoherent and inconsistent.

A similar attack in Uri, Kashmir in 2016 led to the ‘surgical strikes’ by the Indian army across the Line of Control, in Pakistan-occupied- Kashmir, in September 2016. The move helped establish Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a strongman who would wait and watch as Pakistan used ‘terrorists’ as a state tool of aggression against India.

This was not the first such attack by the Indian army, but it was definitely the most publicised one. The propaganda was so effective that the wave of appreciation for Modi’s courage swept over the ill-conceived demonetisation initiative that brought the country’s economy to a grinding halt. It even won the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) key state elections, which followed soon after.


The surgical strikes even inspired a movie, Uri, two years later, in January 2018. The slick blockbuster sparked widespread jingoism in India and the BJP milked it well for political gains.

The many flip-flops

The man who, before becoming prime minister, asserted that the Indian government should respond in the same ‘language’ – that of violence – as the one that Pakistan uses, turned very cordial soon after he was elected.

Modi got accolades for his statesmanship when he invited Pakistan’s head of state Nawaz Sharif for the swearing in ceremony in May 2014. Three months later, Modi cancelled the scheduled foreign-secretary level talks citing a meeting between the Pakistani high commissioner to India and the Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat group.

The next flip flop happened in December 2014, when Modi flew impromptu to Lahore to dine at Sharif’s home when the latter’s daughter was getting wedded, and hope floated that the rapport between the two leaders may calm the tensions between the two nations fighting over shared borders for nearly seven decades now. However, within ten days of the famed meeting of the two leaders, terrorists from the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad attacked a military base in Pathankot, Punjab killing 7 Indian soldiers and one civilian.

The conversations between the two governments stopped and Modi’s poise turned icy. What followed was a rise in cross-border firings as well as a marked-up call to global allies to ‘isolate’ Pakistan in international forums.

That was 2016 and 2017. In November 2018, the two countries agreed to build a cross-border corridor that would allow Sikhs to visit a holy shrine, which is devoted to the religion’s founder Guru Nanak, situated in Pakistan.

Less than a month before the hand shakes on the Kartapur corridor, representatives from the two countries had a heated exchange at the United Nations General Assembly.

Cut to the new year, and Modi was a lot more considerate in his answer to the question on his stance towards Pakistan. “It will be a huge mistake to believe that Pakistan will mend its ways after a war. It will take a lot of time for Pakistan to mend its ways,” the Indian prime minister said in an interview on January 1.

Weeks after the stately view on Pakistan, Modi today, after the latest attack, said that the Indian security forces have been ‘given full freedom’.

India is a lot more polarised today on many issues, none more common than nationalism. The idea of patriotism and the plight of Indian soldiers facing the enemy at the western border have been contentious issues among the country’s citizens—both on social media and in personal interactions—and the credit goes to the BJP for making the debate ubiquitous.

However, in hindsight, the sting of the Indian rhetoric against Pakistan has been more consistent on Twitter than at the level of the government.

Neither India’s aggression nor its pacifist attitude has had any impact on Pakistan’s approach. Ceasefire violations have increased six fold between 2015 and 2018, according to a government data released in July 2018.

India revokes Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan after Pulwama attack

US, Russia, France among countries to condemn terror attack in Kashmir