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As India ushers in a new era, with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister, multiple foreign and domestic challenges surround India, which merit the new premier’s undivided attention. With any new leadership, new political strategies are put into place and among these the country’s foreign policy stands out as a crucial one.
Modi’s new, more aggressive foreign policy is a major concern among many Indians, and neighboring countries alike, as they skeptically observe gestures made by Narendra Modi. During his campaign, Modi became famous for castigating previous regimes over their failure to handle border incitements by Pakistan. He went on to say that India needed to act more aggressively in pursuing wanted terrorists into Pakistani territory. This was deemed by experts as a potential threat to already tense relations between the two neighboring countries. Pakistan strongly reacted by asking the newly elected prime minister to refrain from such irresponsible utterances which are not backed with proof.
Narendra Modi is not a very likable figure when it comes to Pakistan or the Muslim population of India. Narendra Modi’s name is synonymous with the ethnic massacre of 1000 people who were mostly Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots in India. At the time, Modi happened to be the incumbent Chief Minister of the Gujarat state. He was accused of inaction and ordering the police to refrain from intervening in the communal clashes.
A tense atmosphere prevails between India and Pakistan with Modi’s election. However, these are just preliminary assumptions. Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, quashed the negative perception prevailing at both sides of the border and extended congratulatory remarks towards Modi over the phone. In his conversation, Nawaz Sharif invited Narendra Modi to visit Pakistan and conveyed compliments over an impressive victory.
An analysis of Narendra Modi’s campaign would reveal that it was not completely characterized with negativity towards Pakistan. During his campaign trail, he had on occasions called upon the two countries to focus their fight against poverty. This was a call for joint action against a menace which remains a common for both countries and the biggest hindrance perhaps in their economic growth.
The Pakistani media seems to have also taken the cue from Nawaz Sharif. An editorial printed in a leading Pakistani newspaper urged the Pakistani government to refrain from over-reacting when it comes to dealing with the Narendra Modi led Indian government.The editorial focused on the importance of respecting the large mandate commanded by Modi in a decisive and non-controversial victory. The daily paper, Pakistan Today, pointed out that Modi had significantly softened his stance when issuing statements bearing international implications. A recent positive gesture exhibited by Modi is the invitation sent to Nawaz Sharif to attend his swearing-in ceremony. Modi’s real intent will be visible in his foreign policy as the election cloud fades away. No matter which direction Narendra Modi takes his foreign policy, it would be left to one’s prudence to understand that India and Pakistan are neighbors and a friendly gesture is in their mutual best interest.
by Omar Khan