INDIAN ELECTIONS & PAKISTAN
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
With about 814.5 million eligible voters, India is voting for the Lok Sabha elections. It has a multiparty system with approximately 50 regional parties, including two major national parties: the INC (Indian National Congress) and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). Besides these two national parties, the newly emerged Indian political party, the APP (Aam Aadmi Party), formally came into being on November, 26, 2012. Interestingly, it won 28 out of the 70 seats in 2013’s Delhi Legislative Elections, leaving behind the Indian National Congress and becoming the second largest party.
Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate and the leader of Bharatiya Janata Party, is looking for a marginal win in the mammoth general elections of India. The polls indicate that the BJP is likely to win, but it is seemingly impossible for it to attain a majority, or 272 seats, in the elections. Therefore, it is said that Narendra Modi may become India’s next Prime Minister with the help of a coalition.
“The 2014 Indian elections are important as these will indicate a swift but critical turn in the nature of India’s state and society. On the one hand, a vote away from the Indian National Congress is challenging poor politics of an old party with hereditary politics. On the other hand, this is about India turning towards the right-wing, just like other states in South Asia or even the world,” said Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, a well known Pakistani Political Analyst, further adding: “What is noticeable in Pakistan is actually lack of interest in the Indian elections. No one is concerned about Narendra Modi or the changes that may take place as a result. It is as if India does not exist.”
Many analysts are of the opinion that if the hardline Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi were to become India’s next Prime Minister, he, then instead of getting tougher with Pakistan, will follow his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee who developed close ties with Pakistan. Therefore, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also seems to be unworried and looks forward to having close ties with Narendra Modi. Additionally, former BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee not only initiated Pak-India bus diplomacy but also signed a 1999 peace declaration in Lahore. Amazingly, we saw more “ups” than “downs” in relations at the time when Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif were in power.
It is interesting to note that Narendra Modi brought economic prosperity to Gujarat when he was the Chief Minister. Therefore, it is expected that after becoming the Prime Minister he will boost up trade and economic relations with Pakistan. He also enunciated in an interview that he would follow the footsteps of his predecessor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as far as ties are concerned with Pakistan. His present inflexible stance towards Pakistan, analysts say, is to attract the nationalist Hindu voters.
On the other hand, it is to be noted that India’s foreign policy will depend on the strength of the coalition. For example, if the upcoming coalition government led by Narendra Modi is weak, then they will be engrossed in their own domestic tribulation as they were during the time of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). If the coalition is strong, Narendra Modi and his party may be inflexible towards Pakistan and other neighboring countries.
Frustratingly, both countries have seen more “downs” in bilateral relations with each other than “ups” due to communal violence, water disputes, the Kashmir problem and numerous military conflicts from the very beginning.
Narendra Modi is disliked by Pakistan’s Muslim majority due to two major reasons: Firstly, he allowed and abetted the carnage of 1000 people in Gujrat, mostly Muslims, who were slaughtered wholesale by Hindu fascists in 2002. Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujrat back then. This took place following a rumor that a Hindu passenger train was set ablaze by a Muslim mob. After the violence that followed, Muslims were marooned. Secondly, Narendra Modi has remained a lifelong member of the Fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and he has devoted his entire political career to it. The RSS was held responsible for the demolition of Babri Mosque. In this regard, it is also said that Narendra Modi helped organize a rally in 1990 to pit the fascist Hindus against Muslims, which eventually led to the demolition of Babri Mosque in 1992.
In spite of these two conspicuous reasons, Narendra Modi has not apologized for the carnage of 2002. Conversely, when asked about his confession for the 2002 incident he said he regretted Muslim suffering the same way he would regret a puppy being run over by a car. He has also refused to wear the Muslim skullcap and did not condemn the riots in Uttar Pradesh in 2013 where again, most of the victims were Muslims.
Unfortunately, what seems to be more alarming is the post 2014 situation in Afghanistan when the US/Nato/International Security Assistance Force will leave the war torn country. It is believed that after 2014, Afghanistan will lead to a proxy war between India and Pakistan. The fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 allowed India to expand its influence in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai in his meeting with Manmohan Singh, in 2013, asked for heavy weaponry from India. Recently, India has also signed an agreement under which it will supply arms and equipment to the Afghan military as foreign combat troops prepare to leave the country. And this move has certainly angered Pakistan.