Pakistan, India and the election manifestos

April 15, 2009

The world’s largest democracy chooses a new government in an election beginning on Thursday, and given the fires burning next door in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the men and women who will rule New Delhi over the next five years will doubtless exert influence over the course of events.

Indeed, with the pain and anger over  the Mumbai attacks of November still raw, the mood could hardly be tougher against Pakistan. Even shorn of the campaign rhetoric, the positions of both the ruling Congress and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party on Pakistan begin from common ground. No dialogue with Islamabad until it “dismantles the infrastructure of terrorism”, both parties say in their manifestos.

Full texts of the documents of the two main parties are here and here.

New Delhi’s continued refusal to resume dialogue or indeed to expand other links such as trade has caught Pakistan between a rock and a hard place, according to this piece in 2point6billion.com, a website tracking developments mainly in China and India. While Islamabad has repeatedly called for resumption of dialogue since the attacks, Delhi has refused to comply until it is assured that Pakistan will prosecute all those involved in the planning and operations.

Delhi maintains that it holds information garnered from satellite, cellular and other communications devices captured at the scene that lead to specific individuals that Pakistan has as yet failed to apprehend. Islamabad denies the charge and says it is doing everything in its power to cooperate.

The result is that the noose has tightened around Pakistan, exacerbating its already dire financial situation. Trade between Pakistan and India, which had been growing and was forecast to hit US$10 billion by 2010, has dwindled to close to zero over the past few months, with Pakistan feeling the brunt of this economic demise, says the website. Islamabad has already had to apply for a US$7.6 billion loan from the IMF in February and garnered an additional US$2.8 billion in military aid from the Obama administration just two weeks ago. 

But is there a possibility that once India’s elections are out of the way, there might be a slight softening of positions? A new government will be under less pressure to be seen to be acting tough. Looking at the manifestos again, you do detect slight differences in the tone.

Here’s the BJP on Pakistan, true to its roots a touch more aggressive :

“”There can be no ‘comprehensive dialogue’ for peace unless Pakistan a) dismantles the terrorist infrastructure on territory under its control; b) actively engages in prosecuting terror elements and organisations; c) puts a permanent, verifiable end to its practice of using cross-border terrorism as an instrument of state policy; d) stops using the territory of third countries to launch terror attacks on India; and, e) hands over to India individuals wanted for committing crimes on Indian soil.”

The Congress on the other hand says dealing with “”terrorism aided and abetted from across our borders does not require a muscular foreign policy as advocated by the BJP.”"

Here is their plan:

“”But the Mumbai attacks have cast a long shadow on the on-going dialogue and engagement process. It is now entirely up to Pakistan to break the impasse by taking credible action against those responsible for the carnage in Mumbai. If it does so and dismantles the terrorist networks that operate from its soil, a Congress-led government will not be found wanting in its response. ”

Has the Congress, still the frontrunner in the election, left the door to dialogue slightly open?

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