The Way Forward - Bonhomie Diplomacy + Carrot and Stick Policy


The two leaders met at the sidelines of the SCO Summit meeting at Ufa in Russia where both countries were co-opted as members.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertook a bold initiative to make a surprise landing in Lahore to greet his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif on his birthday and to attend the wedding celebration of his granddaughter on his way back from Afghanistan to India on the day when the world was celebrating Christmas. The move was adventurous and characteristic in keeping with his style of functioning and that can be termed as innovative to revive the stalled talks between the two neighbours. However, questions are being raised on PM Modi’s ‘innovative’ and ‘risky’ diplomacy with Pakistan.

Evidently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was impatient to return the courtesy visit that Nawaz Sharif paid during his swearing in ceremony, 19 months ago. After the swearing in, Modi-Sharif bonhomie began with shawl-sari diplomacy – the former presenting a shawl for latter’s mother and the latter gifting a sari for former’s mother.

Initiating of any dialogue process with Pakistan invites reactions from the Pakistan Army and the ISI that call all the shots. When the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a bus trip to Lahore to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistan Army could not tolerate two leaders coming closer. Sharif was unseated by a military coup after he signed Lahore Declaration with his Indian counterpart. Pakistani aggression in Kargil sector followed. Vajpayee attempted to initiate dialogue with Army chief Pervez Musharraf who assumed power but failed. Thereafter, the 10-year rule of UPA government attempted to initiate dialogue process but could not succeed. Modi took the risky adventure of visiting Pakistan which his predecessor Manmohan Singh dared not to do so.

Lessons of Vajpayee and Singh were before Modi. He failed to contain the fallout of his risky adventure. While the Afghan forces could neutralise the attack on Indian consulate office in Mazer-e-Sharif in time and there was no loss to India, at home it took long time to neutralise the attack at Pathankot that caused casualty to security forces. This raises question about ineffective border management and security. As per reports, the route through which the terrorists entered is the same from where narcotics are smuggled into India under the very nose of the security forces and the Punjab police, and there are conduits on the Indian side for this illegal narcotic trade. The terrorists are hand-in-glove with narcotic trade and Pakistan Army reportedly facilitates such mass infusion of narcotics and infiltration of terrorists. Modi should have done his homework in effective border management and security to prevent the Pathankot fallout. There is nothing wrong in the diplomacy of bonhomie, but there should be a carrot and stick policy in place.

Modi’s words in Afghanistan – “There are some who did not want us to be here. There were those who saw sinister designs in our presence here. There are others who were uneasy at the strength of our Partnership” – was enough to provoke the terrorists for Mazer-e-Sharif attack.

Let us see how Modi’s diplomacy with Pakistan moves. He began his debut by inviting all SAARC leaders to his swearing in ceremony on May 26, 2014. Subsequently talks with Nawaz Sharif settled for foreign secretary level talks between the two countries in August in Islamabad. Unfortunately, as the Pakistani High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit went ahead to meet the Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders despite caution from India. Modi government had then maintained that the talks between the two neighbours should be in the spirit of Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration that rules out involvement of any third party in resolving the longstanding Kashmir issue. Nawaz Sharif, when he came during Modi’s swearing in ceremony, did make a departure from the usual practice of meeting with Hurriyat leaders.

There was a marked rise in ceasefire violations by Pakistan at the borders resulting in casualties on both sides and attempts by terrorist groups to infiltrate. New Delhi then insisted that there can be no talks with Pakistan until there is peace at borders and the latter should rein in the terrorists.

The India-Pakistan sour relations had an impact on the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014. New Delhi, thereafter, stepped up efforts for dialogue in the entire South Asian region. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar was sent on a SAARC Yatra and he met his Pakistani counterpart and other Pakistani leaders.

The two leaders met at the sidelines of the SCO Summit meeting at Ufa in Russia where both countries were co-opted as members. This led to the Ufa Declaration that proposed a meeting of the NSAs of two countries in New Delhi, followed by an early meeting of DG BSF and DG Pakistan Rangers and a meeting of DGMOs of both countries – the date and the venue for which would be decided by Islamabad.

However, after Ufa joint statement was signed, Pakistan raised the issue that Kashmir was specifically not reflected on the agenda even though it mentioned ‘prepared to discuss all outstanding issues’. The Ufa statement also called for cooperation in eliminating terrorism and expediting the Mumbai case trial including additional information such as providing voice samples. The recurrences of ceasefire violations at the borders again derailed the NSA-level talks. However, the talks between DG BSF and DG Pakistan Rangers did take place in September 2015 in New Delhi as this was a regular bi-annual event and not a part of the Ufa agenda.

Dialogue is necessary in diplomacy. Flexibility is a norm to achieve the goal and hence in diplomacy there can be no full stops, it can have comas. The bonhomie between the two prime ministers continued with waving of hands at UN Summit in September 2015, and shaking of hands at Paris climate negotiations in November 2015. Finally, the NSAs and foreign secretaries of both the countries met in a third country – Thailand – in Bangkok city on December 6, 2015 and discussed peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir and other issues including tranquillity at the Line of Control. They agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement. In contrast to Ufa, Pakistan could get Kashmir issue specifically inserted on the agenda. Subsequently, the Indian External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj covered considerable ground in thawing India-Pakistan dialogue process during her visit to Islamabad for Heart of Asia Conference. She signed a joint statement along with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani that focused on improving security, bilateral ties, defence cooperation and resolving Kashmir issue. She also called for seamless trade and transit connecting India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

It is high time for Modi to adopt carrot and stick policy along with his bonhomie diplomacy. Ahead are the scheduled foreign secretary level talks in mid-January, possibility of two leaders meeting at Davos World Economic Forum and subsequently the SAARC Summit in Islamabad. Let’s hope for the best!

Go to Content Page

Back to Top

Diplomatist Magazine was launched in October of 1996 as the signature magazine of L.B. Associates (Pvt) Ltd, a contract publishing house based in Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, India, the National Capital.