G20 effect: question mark over PM’s Islamabad visit

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 16, 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China   -  PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi remarks aimed at Pakistan at the G20 summit have put a question mark on his proposed visit to the neighbouring country in November to attend the 19th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit.

Modi, on Monday at the G-20 Summit, stated that a “single nation” is promoting and spreading terror in the South Asian region. This comes less than a month after the Prime Minister spoke about alleged human rights violations in Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Interestingly, Modi had invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other SAARC leaders to attend his swearing-in ceremony. This gesture was followed by a “surprise” visit to Pakistan by him on December 25 that led many to believe that India will now be following an out-of-the-box approach towards Pakistan. “India cannot afford to boycott the SAARC Summit. Whether the Prime Minister goes or someone else represents him is a different matter. Modi, if he decides to go, must ensure beforehand that Pakistan makes the environment conducive enough. Sharif has to reverse all that is happening now as anti-India diplomacy,” said former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal.

According to reports, High Commissioner of India to Pakistan Gautam Bambawale on Tuesday said in Karachi that the Prime Minister M is “looking forward to visiting Islamabad” for the SAARC Summit in November.

However, Vikas Swarup, Spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, tweeted: “Decisions and announcements of such nature are not made so far in advance.”

After a decision to resume the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue last year, India-Pakistan ties reached nadir with the terrorist attack at the Pathankot Air Force base on January 2, which India believed was masterminded by Jaish-e-Mohammad, a terrorist outfit based in Pakistan.

However, India permitted investigators from Pakistan and a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) visited the air base in March. This was to be followed up by a similar visit by Indian investigators there, which never happened.

“This reciprocal visit should have happened. That was the critical moment when ties between the two started plummeting. It seems Pakistan will be more forthcoming and allow our investigators to carry out their investigation there. Pakistan should realise now it cannot be one-way always,” said TCA Raghavan, Former High Commissioner of India to Pakistan.

Neighbourhood First

Soon after the Modi government came to power in 2014, it clearly stated that the neighbourhood will be its top priority in its foreign policy. However, experts believed that the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy has taken a back seat now. Matters took an ugly turn when Indian forces killed a Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani on July 8 that led to massive unrest in Kashmir.

“This is certainly a setback for the neighbourhood first policy. Even if Prime Minister goes, it will be difficult for him to convince his own country about the visit. But if he cancels the visit then it will clearly show the world that India is being boxed up by Pakistan on one side and China on the other,” said Happymon Jacob, Associate Professor (Diplomacy and Disarmament Studies), Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Published on September 06, 2016

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