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Will internal politics sway Modi’s Pakistan policy?

June 7, 2024

ISLAMBAD – AS Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares for a third term in office — albeit with a significantly reduced majority — the dynamics of his coalition government and a shifting domestic landscape may force him to recalibrate his approach to relations with Pakistan, even though he would like to maintain a sense of continuity in his government’s external policies.

The BJP’s campaign promised a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism, subtly highlighting its uncompromising stance through references to the ‘2016 surgical strike’ and ’2019 airstrikes’, thereby signalling its firm position on Pakistan.

Initially, Pakistan was an uncharacteristically muted issue in this year’s campaign. But as the election drive gained momentum, the narrative shifted dramatically, with PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah increasingly invoking the spectre of their Western neighbour to discredit the opposition and bolster their claim of pursuing a robust national security agenda.

This strategy aligned with the BJP’s historic approach, which has consistently leveraged foreign policy and national security as key pillars, emphasising a strong response to external threats and promoting a nationalistic narrative that positions India as a regional leader and rising global power.

The foreign policy legacy of Mr Modi’s past two tenures is marked by assertiveness, a pro-US shift, and a tough stance on Pakistan and China. Looking ahead, he’ll likely maintain this course while also pursuing stronger ties with Iran and Russia and deeper cooperation with Gulf states, balancing regional muscle with strategic partnerships.

Future foreign policy

Rezaul H. Laskar, foreign affairs editor of the Hindustan Times, says, “In terms of foreign