Modi’s ‘Lahore diplomacy’ is a masterstroke, ask Manmohan Singh

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The BJP might struggle in the domestic politics of late, thanks to issues like intolerance or suspension of Kirti Azad, but when it comes to the foreign policy domain, Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to give it (and also the world) enough hope.

The way Modi fooled every conventional pundits of international politics by paying a surprise visit to Lahore while returning to India from Afghanistan, it certainly marks a convenient departure from New Delhi's old school of thought on foreign policy approaches.

Modi with Sharif in Pakistan

The short but unexpected visit to Pakistan whereby the prime minister displayed a personal warmth towards his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif by attending his family occasion and was touched by the reciprocation penned a new script in India's foreign policy.

From here on, the two countries can only better their relations.

Those criticising Modi are doing so for the sake of politics

Modi's eternal enemies like the Congress, AAP and JD(U) found little exciting in this new kind of diplomacy in an otherwise battered relation but those parties judge the visit more from the political point of view.

They either call it a headline-grabbing move or an injustice meted out to victims of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in this country. But these outfits are blinded by a negative politics in gauging the way international politics actually functions.

Modi has been consistent in his approach towards Pak from Day 1

PM Modi has been trying to leave a long-term impact on the country's Pakistan policy from the very first day. He had invited Sharif along with other South Asian heads of governments and representatives at his oath-taking ceremony in May last year.

The two leaders met in a number of forums thereafter, be it Ufa or Paris, or at a private ceremony in Lahore, which clearly states that there is a genuine will to improve the relations on the ground.

For those who say that Modi's Pakistan policy lacks consistency, they are mistaken on a number of counts.

Consistency doesn't mean rigidity in International Relations

First, foreign policy or international relations doesn't mean consistency in the form of ‘same stand in all weather'. It calls for a capacity of manoeuvrability amid all odds to serve the interests.

India and Pakistan might have seen some serious lows in the recent times, like cancellation of the NSA-level talks, but the countries despite that have continued their efforts to not miss the negotiating table.

The recent occurrences of Bangkok talks, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's visit to Islamabad, PM Modi's surprise visit to Lahore, foreign secretary-level talks scheduled in January and Modi's visit to Pakistan next year for the Saarc talks say that New Delhi has pursued a consistency in its Pakistan policy and that is: aiming an improved relation with the neighbour.

Remember ‘Ping Pong Diplomacy' between US and China?

There have been great international rivalries in the past as well, like those between the US and the former Soviet Union or that between the US and China. In each of those cases, both sides had shown the maturity of reaching out to the other to better their tomorrows. Can they be called inconsistent for that? In the early 1970s, the Richard Nixon administration had pursued the historic ‘Ping Pong diplomacy' to break ice with China and it had included a secret visit by Henry Kissinger to Beijing in a Pakistani aircraft. The diplomacy had paid off.

The leaders of the two superpowers had also met during the Cold War days to limit the competition of arms that looked ominous. Did that mean they lacked consistent approach towards the challenge they faced?

If an Indian ‘Armand Hammar' facilitated Modi's visit, it was a great job

Secondly, the Congress alleged that certain businessman had helped arranging Modi's visit to Lahore and it was hence aimed at serving a private business interest and not national interest. This is a logic that will find few takers.

Noted American businessman Armand Hammar, who was closely associated with Occidental Petroleum, was known for his ‘citizen diplomacy' and had close ties with the former Soviet Union.

If an individual or firm helps two countries come inch closer, something self-defeating politics couldn't do for over half a century, nothing can be happier. If business interests can contribute breaking the political ice and serve the interest of an entire volatile region by helping it integrate, who will be the ultimate gainer?

Modi has kept the noisy media at a distance; it will help both India and Pakistan

Thirdly, Modi's genuine concern in improving New Delhi's relation with Islamabad is also proved by the fact that he keeps the noisy media at a distance. The Indian media is known for the ruckus it creates that harms a sensitive issue like diplomacy.

The impact becomes bigger in case of Modi, with whom the mainstream media doesn't share a happy term. Thus the Modi administration cautiously makes its move (the Bangkok talks between the NSAs of the two countries and then Modi's surprise visit to Lahore) to carry the more important task, which is to carry on with the talks, effectively.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee's bus diplomacy in 1999 had backfired on the Indian establishment, thanks to the massive media consumption which was followed by the Kargil War. Modi certainly is aware of the history and being a man who wants to leave a legacy behind, he makes his moves accordingly.

Dear Congress, did you notice that Modi just fulfilled Manmohan's dream?

Finally, the Congress said Modi's visit to Lahore lacked substance and was all about making headlines. It is a pity that the same party's prime minister had once expressed the wish of having breakfast in Afganistan, lunch in Pakistan and dinner in India. Modi just carried out what Singh had envisioned eight years ago. Ask Singh in private and he might express how significant it is to win the soft battles in international relations.

Breakthroughs in diplomacy do not come overnight as the aam aadmi expects as if it is a cricket or football match. It's a continuous process and therein lies Modi's success. He has been giving it a try, relentlessly.

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