Don't write off Modi's Pakistan policy; he is slowly isolating Islamabad
Many have opined that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policy on Pakistan has not been coherent and things suggest that it lacks a direction. But the Modi regime is not perturbed by the criticism and is working silently on a long-term strategy and that is to isolate Pakistan without spending a single bullet.
Afghanistan after Iran: India is busy executing its strategy
The alacrity with which India wrapped up the Chabahar Port development pact with Iran last month and inaugurated the Salma Dam in Afghanistan on Saturday proves that New Delhi is now exploring new ways to bypass Islamabad in conducting its neighbourhood policy and eventually cornering it.
Even Pakistani defence experts are worried about their country's growing isolation
In fact, Pakistan's own defence experts have expressed worry over India's latest strategy. In a recent seminar on 'National Security, Deterrence and Regional Stability in South Asia' organised by an Islamabad-based think tank Strategic Vision Institute, two former Pakistani lieutenant generals who also served as defence sectretaries said the trilateral alliance between India, Afghanistan and Iran on the Chabahar Port is a security challenge to Pakistan for it can land in an "abyss of isolation" as a result.
They feared that this could also hurt the time schedule of the Pakistan China Economic Corridor and damage Pakistan's economic prospects and chances of restoration of internal peace. They blamed the country's "dysfunctional foreign office" and the absence of a full-time foreign minister for seeing such a disadvantage.
Chabahar can eclipse Gwadar in long run, given India's better records than Pakistan
The Pakistani establishment is worried for the opening of the Chabahar Port will nullify the advantage of the Gwadar Port which is operated by the Chinese to handle the maritime trade in South Asia. Given India's better economic and political records and the emergence of Iran in the post-sanctions era, Chabahar has every potential to eclipse the Gwadar Port as the main point of maritime trade in the region.
The Chabahar Port will also give India the opportunity to reach out to resource-rich countries of Central and West Asia without taking Pakistan into account. So far, India's limited access to the West because of Pakistan's hostility was a big obstacle. Now, by reaching out to Iran and Afghanistan, India has done itself a great service.
India has reduced its geographical and psychological gap with Afghanistan without touching Pakistan
The pact on Chabahar Port and the subsequent inauguration of Salma Dam has ensured that India has attached a big importance to its ties with Afghanistan. The closeness between New Delhi and Kabul---both logistical and psychological (Salma Dam) and geographical (Chabahar Port) will make Pakistan irrelevant in the scheme of things.
Besides, India's plans to connect Afghanistan through railways built on Iran's soil will cement the trilateral friendship further and contain Pakistan from three sides.
With US also turning away, Islamabad is in a big spot of bother
With the US also not favouring Pakistan currently and the probable leadership of Washington speaking more against it, Islamabad has every reason to feel more nervous. It's only credible friend at the moment is China but its support is more strategic to counter the growing India-US camaraderie. In effect, Pakistan is treated more like a client state by the Chinese, unlike India, which is seen more as a close partner by the US.
Hence, Modi might not be doing as poorly on the Pakistan front as many have believed so far. He tried to engage with the Pakistani leadership in the beginning by reaching out to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif more than once but the reciprocation from Islamabad hasn't been desirable, thanks to the lack of consensus among the multiple power centres there.
The Indian establishment hence has implemented a Plan B to deal with Pakistan for engagements with it have not produced any positive result per se. What we are terming as Modi's incoherent Pakistan policy could just be a transition to a more robust and effective policy.