High-level f political instability in Pakistan is a given. The February 8 polls have delivered a mandate that closes all options for the country to stay stable or make its way out of the crises that it is ridden with. The real problem is that the situation that has arisen in Pakistan after the elections needs to be assessed, particularly by India, with all the realistic yardsticks.
It has become mandatory for Delhi, both as immediate neighbor of Pakistan, and also as it is accessing its superpower status in the world. There are additional responsibilities that India needs to perform to bring reconciliation and peace to the world ridden with conflict, particularly owing to nearly two year-long Russia-Ukraine war and turbulences rocking Middle-East after the October 7 terror attack by Hamas in Israel and the stunning and brutal retaliation by Tel Aviv against the Palestinians. The issue has got complicated further with Israel’s refusal to accept two-state solution to end the turmoil.
A deeply fractured mandate in Pakistan has created new troubles. India cannot overlook the problems in the immediate neighborhood. These have the potential to disturb the apple cart in the South Asian region, which is inherently volatile, and much of the troubles are because of the growing tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Islamabad’s not too comfortable ties with Iran. Pakistan, living in its own illusions, ignoring some of its own pressing problems at home, has been an irritating neighbor. Delhi ‘s message for peace and stopping terrorism have not yielded any results till date. Now the problems have become more complicated. A cauldron is boiling next door. It has to take care that the toxic spew doesn’t spill on to its own territory, with a sense of responsibility to safeguard its national interests and its duty as a world leader to keep the things in control.
The mandate is deeply fractured. At best it can allow a combination of political parties alongside independents to form a coalition government with all powerful army playing behind the scene game of various permutations and combinations. This is the first option that is being looked at quite seriously by Pakistan Muslim League (N), headed by three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. It has approached dynastic politics driven Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Bhuttos. The jailed former prime minister Imran Khan ‘s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf has won highest number of seats in the symbol-less polls for the party – its poll symbol cricket bat- was snatched away from it by the Election Commission of Pakistan, and then upheld by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The candidates backed by the PTI had to contest as independents without any firm symbol. This has queered the pitch in Pakistani politics.
There is second option. PTI-backed independents joining any small party or aligning with PPP to form the government. Imran and Nawaz cannot come together unless the army does so. This is a dangerous situation. It has left the politicians and their parties at the mercy of army. Politicians and their parties have not got any legitimacy after the February 8 polls, rather they are more dependent upon army than before.
For India, it is a very difficult situation vis-à-vis Pakistan. India’s stability on its own is there, but the destabilized Pakistan poses a greater threat. India’s interests are served best if Pakistan is stable. The stability offers a promise that India could open trade and travel with Pakistan. the two immediate neighbours cannot lock themselves in permanent hostility . The existing tensions are good for neither . A stable Pakistan is an asset for India, and a liability if it continued its courtship with instability.
Both Delhi and Islamabad have their pro-dialogue constituencies. They want the two countries to improve their ties, and push for talks between the two governments. In India, there is a guaranteed political stability. Despite the BJP government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is headed to Parliament elections in next couple of months, India is claiming its space among the fastest growing economy. There is no fear of any discontinuity in the system. The chances of Modi Government returning to power for a third-time after the Parliamentary elections, are not only bright but also firm. The world has articulated this. A host of people-friendly programmes launched by the Government have ensured almost certain victory of BJP in the elections. A stable government would look for another stable government across the border to discuss and deliberate on the issues, but the internal strife in Pakistan is biggest hurdle.
Kashmir has been a constant bone of contention between the two countries. India believes, after the abrogation of Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir for almost 70 years, the whole problem has been resolved. It has added to its glory anti-terror laws, which have put terrorists, their sympathizers on mat. A firmed up normalcy is gaining ground, and the people are happy with the new-found peace in their lives. They are not hostage to the violent situation in the neighborhood anymore. This normalcy is a rebuff to Pakistan and its never-ending cry that Kashmir is in trouble and the people are struggling for their rights. This rebuke has been served by the people. Pakistan will have to see the reality, but given the situation of instability staring it from all its corners from within, it will not make any concessions on its rhetoric on Kashmir. That will make it very difficult for India to move on.