BISHKEK DIPLOMACY

By Sunil Dang

Bishkek is living up to its image of an intriguing yet meaningful engagement amongst participating nations of the SCO. In a curious twist to the tale, Indian Prime minister, Mr. Modi, decided not to fly over the Pakistan airspace after the later had given permission that was sought for the same. Such a move may have lend credence to the theory that the Indian establishment continues to believe that any favour sought of the neighboring country may have bound it to some reciprocal gesture, at a time when the atmospherics back home wouldn’t have encouraged such an outreach.

Would then this qualify as another diplomatically smart decision not to let off the stranglehold over Pakistan & let it slip into perpetual obscurity in the emerging geo-political game plan. Coming as this does in the backdrop of a spectacular victory for Modi & his party, any move of offering an olive branch to Pakistan may not have gone down well with its hardcore Hindutva support base that is overwhelmingly in favour of the muscular nationalism of Modi.

Can it be the case that Modi & his entourage did not wish to engage in any of the pleasantries during the Bishkek summit neither on the sidelines nor an informal bilateral that prompted them to refuse the permission to fly over Pakistan airspace? Taking a longer route to reach this venue may have allowed India the discretion to gloss over Pakistan & its leadership & in the process be also be able to convey a strong sentiment across. Perhaps the idea behind Modi making it clear to China that Pakistan must end its proxy war against India, if they (Pakistan) were to explore possibilities of any meaningful engagement with India, is in itself a subtle warning to both that India had moved beyond its Pakistan centric foreign policy & fantasy.

Moreover the idea of a consistent policy of ‘No talks till terror prevails’ must have weighed heavily in the Indian delegation’s minds. Back home, BJP is looked up as a strong Nationalistic party that means to protect & secure India’s sovereignty & honor without any compromise or confusion. In this context any warming up to Pakistan or Imran Khan, howsoever informal, may have been seen as a mellow down from the bellicose posturing, it (BJP) displayed during the election time. In fact if there is one particular reason that BJP won a landslide in the Lok Sabha polls, it was the decisive airstrike, in the aftermath of Pulwama terror attack, deep within the Pakistan territory that catapulted them to the numero uno status in the Parliament.

Perhaps behind the confidence & conviction with which India sidestepped any possibility of an interaction with Pakistan during the Bishkek summit must be the growing undercurrent against the latter as an irresponsible nation that feeds terror & protects its perpetrators. Post Pulwama, Modi & his able team lead by then foreign secretary S. Jaishankar were remarkably successful in skimming the camouflage off the enemy country in-front of the world leadership & that to me would have got diluted, had India shown any flexibility towards the other side. Under these circumstances maintaining an arm’s length from the pesky nation must have been the better strategy to adopt.

It could also be that BJP & its chief strategy masters wish to be no more apologetic about their Pro-Hindutva (read Hindu) tilt that continues to believe in the origin of the two nation’s theory. Something that made a pronounced distinction of the two based on their religious identities. Hence any rapprochement with the Muslim majority neighbor may be seen flirting with danger by its supporters back home & thus the cold shoulder.