What does the BJP’s electoral win in Uttar Pradesh mean for India’s ties with Pakistan?
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has won big in Uttar Pradesh, the state that is bigger than Pakistan in population, despite negative fallout from his demonetizing policy, which too has benefited the economy instead of harming it. The BJP is going to be in power in India over the long haul, which means Pakistan should think seriously about patching ties with it unless it wants to hurt its biggest-ever economic undertaking, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed willingness to extend friendship to Modi, but the opposition, ever sending hostile smoke-signals to the deep state, will keep trying to sabotage his overtures to his Indian counterpart, singing “Modi ka yaar” (Modi’s friend is a traitor). The good, placatory sign is that Pakistan has begun its Radd-ul-Fasad military operation against the terrorists, although even it has not nabbed the ones behind the 2008 strike on Mumbai. On the other hand, Modi will be more confident and less obsessed with becoming popular by bashing Pakistan. The question is: who needs to normalize more, India or Pakistan?
The answer, easily, is Pakistan. It has to get out of the internationally supported Indian trap in Afghanistan and get serious about the big investment China has made in CPEC. It also has to stuff its jails with its U.N.-tagged terrorists to dump its “rogue state” label. India, knowing these compulsions, will act hard-to-get but Modi will sooner rather than later think of dousing the Kashmir fire through Pakistani help by normalizing the Line of Control and introducing free-trade concessions, including a trade corridor to Central Asia.
Pakistan shouldn’t feel short-changed in normalizing ties with India, given its $17 billion foreign exchange reserve against India’s $300 billion. Needless to say, any friendly overtures would be hailed by the world, led by Pakistan’s best friend China, as they could help establish the CPEC trade route throughout Asia.