Will Modi Take U-turn for Peace with Pakistan?

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan. — File photo

M.K. Bhadrakumar

IT is no big secret that the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a damp squib. The impression becomes unavoidable that the decision to invite the little-known BIMSTEC leaders to PM Narendra Modi’s inaugural ceremony on May 30 is prompted by the genuine urge to give a ‘regional’ coloring to the Indian mega event while also giving it a historicity — but, in reality, to somehow exclude Pakistan from the guest list.

In an ideal setting, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) could and should have been the authentic geopolitical union of regional states in South Asia to embellish such a historic occasion, but, clearly, that is too much to expect when Modi government is, on the other hand, holding even the group’s annual summit hostage to the India-Pakistan tensions.

However, there is also a greater logic in the Indian decision. First, the ceremony on May 30 is all about Modi and there is the great risk that Imran Khan who is a rockstar among Indians might end up stealing the show — that is, if he were to accept an Indian invitation and travel to Delhi at such short notice (of which there is no absolute certainty, of course.)

So far, Imran Khan has avoided excessive globe-trotting and has traveled abroad very purposively with clear-cut result-oriented agenda in mind — the Persian Gulf, Malaysia, and Turkey, apart from two visits to China. But this charismatic international celebrity is not to be underestimated for his panache for grandstanding and might find irresistible to pose as a conquering hero in the backdrop of the old Moghul capital.

The fact of the matter is that a tough, muscular policy toward Pakistan has brought rich electoral dividends to the BJP and to Modi’s leadership, in particular, by far exceeding anyone’s expectations.

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