On 25th December 2015 Indian PM, Narendra Modi, made an impromptu visit to Pakistan on his return journey from the visit of Russia and Afghanistan. For the first time in over a decade an Indian Prime Minister visited Pakistan. Visit materialised when PM Modi called Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif from Afghanistan for congratulating him on his birthday. Sharif invited Modi to Pakistan, an invitation pending since last year when Modi had invited all SAARC leaders in his oath taking ceremony. Narendra Modi accepted the invitation and in next few hours PM Modi was in Pakistan. An unprecedented move in diplomacy. PM Modi visited Nawaz Sharif’s ancestral home where Nawaz Sharif’s grand daughter was to be married next day. This impromptu visit to Pakistan is significant on many counts.
In past few years Indo-Pak relations have deteriorated ultimately leading to complete halt of talks and increased hostility. In this context PM visit to Pakistan has worked as an ice breaker. Personal family relations are used as important catalysts in diplomacy. Increased mutual trust has been shown by this visit. Casualization of visits and deindexing of talks from ground situation has been visualized.
Talks between India and Pakistan had come to grinding halt after Pakistan insisted on meeting separatists from Jammu and Kashmir before NSA level talks. Hence, India withdrew from the talks. PM Modi’s visit has worked as positive intervention and shows the positive intent of India for resolution of vexing issues hindering normalization of Indo-Pak relations. This move has generated a lot of goodwill in people of Pakistan and India. This is evident from the support of all political parties in Pakistan. Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have also welcomed PM Modi’s visit.
PM Modi used Nawaz Sharif’s birthday and his grand daughter’s wedding as an instrument for furthering diplomacy, improve relations and break the deadlock. Earlier also both PM’s have given peronal gifts for each other’s mother. This is an innovation in art of diplomacy. Such moves have helps in creating better environment for talks and favourable public opinion.
When PM Modi visited Pakistan his security was managed by Pakistani establishment. It was for the first time that an Indian and Pakistani Prime Minister have flown in same helicopter. PM Modi went to Nawaz Sharif’s ancestal home in his car. Indian PM has shown great trust in Pakistani counterpart and shows India’s seriousness in advancing talks for better ties.
Impromptu casual visit to Pakistan removed the usual pressure and expectations associated with any India – Pakistan talks at any level. Also it could be step in the direction of deindexing peace talks from terror activites which is utilized by terror groups and Pakistani military establishment for derailing the talks. Unnecessary expectations and hyper publicity is detrimental to policy making. Disputes between India and Pakistan are complex on which consensus builiding is difficult. Constant media glare and frenzied opinions hampers free decision making. Governments come under a lot of unnecessary public and media pressure and therefore fall short of taking tangible strong decisions which may be unpopular but beneficial in long term. By deindexing progress of peace talks and improving relations from acts of terror would devoid terrorist outfits, ISI and Pakistani military of pressure tactics which are not favorable to normalization of relations. This would provide policy makers more leeway to negotiate and make peace talks progress incremental and cumulative.
So, Narendra Modi made personal relations important part of diplomacy. This impromptu visit, just as you drop to your neighbour’s home has made this visit very casual. It has two most important implications. First, it has generated a lot of goodwill in people of Pakistan and India. This is evident from the support of all political parties in Pakistan. Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have also welcomed PM Modi’s visit. Second, By making this visit casual in nature, it devoid visit of unnecessary expectations and publicity which is detrimental to policy making. Disputes between India and Pakistan are complex. Media publicity and frenzied opinions hampers free decision making. Governments come under a lot of unnecessary public pressure and media glare and therefore fall short of taking tangible strong decisions which may be unpopular but beneficial in long term. By deindexing progress of peace talks and improving relations from acts of terror would devoid terrorist outfits of pressure tactics and other forces in Pakistan which do not want normalisation of relations. This would give policy makers more leeway to negotiate and peace talks progress incremental and cumulative.
The innovative diplomatic move of Indian PM has shown the importance Indian government give to advancement of better relations with Pakistan and openness for utlizing uncoventional means for seeking solution. It has shown a new ray of hope for better relations between India and Pakistan.