Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday pointed to the multiple power centres in Pakistan to explain New Delhi’s difficulty in drawing a “lakshman rekha” (red line) for talks with the neighbouring country.
Since coming to power in 2014, Modi has pushed to improve bilateral ties but has run up against the familiar problem of the Pakistani military’s stranglehold over the country’s foreign policy that has often undermined its civilian government. New Delhi also accuses the Pakistani military of using anti-India groups as an extension of its policy towards its neighbour.
“The first thing is that with whom in Pakistan will you decide the ‘lakshman rekha’ -- with the elected government or with other actors? So India will have to be alert and conscious all the time. There should not be any laxity and negligence,” Modi said in an interview with a TV news channel.
He was responding to a question about what the ‘lakshman rekha’ for holding talks with Pakistan should be. At different times, India has linked the progress of talks to action by Pakistan against the planners of 2008 Mumbai attacks as well as on an airbase in Pathankot earlier this year. In 2014, the NDA government had said talks should only be between the two governments, leaving out the Kashmiri separatist group, the Hurriyat.
Modi, however, clarified that New Delhi will continue to engage with the civilian government in Pakistan.
“Look, there are different types of forces operating in Pakistan. But the government only engages with a democratically elected system. Our effort for that engagement is continuing,” he said.
Modi said because of his consistent efforts like the visit to Lahore in December or inviting the Pakistan Prime Minister to Delhi for his 2014 inaugural that he no longer has to convince the world either about India’s stand on terrorism or its willingness to engage with its neighbour.
“The world in one voice is praising India’s role. Pakistan is finding it difficult to answer. The world is watching. If we remain an obstacle then we will have to convince the world that we are not like this,” he said.
“Earlier the world would not buy India’s stand on terrorism and sometime it would even treat it as a law and order problem. Now the whole world is accepting what India says on terrorism… I believe India will have to continue putting forth its view on this matter.”
But opposition parties have described Modi’s foreign policy as inconsistent at best and “tamasha” at worst, especially after the Prime Minister’s diplomacy failed to break China’s resistance to India’s effort to become a member of the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG). Pakistan’s refusal in April to host an Indian team probing the Pathankot airbase attack also triggered charges that Modi had played into the hands of Islamabad.
Modi said India will continue to make efforts to enter the NSG, undeterred by the failure to make it into the club last week.
“Everyone attempted and we also attempted to be a member of the NSG group. We will keep trying, and things have started on a positive note. All the things will be according to the due procedure,” Modi said.
Asked about China’s objections to India’s NSG bid, Modi said: “There have been talks with China and in future also the talks should continue... There have been times when China has differed on several issues and even India has differed on several issues.”