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Modi Eyes Electoral Opportunity in India-Pakistan Conflict

March 4, 2019 in Economics

By Sahar Khan

Sahar Khan

In the wake of
reciprocal attacks
in February between India and Pakistan,
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not responded favorably to
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s offer for talks, raising
questions about Modi’s Pakistan policy and whether he might want to
go to war.

Between the lines: India is gearing up for a
general election in April and May, and despite
losses in key states,
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
remains a front-runner — something Modi does not want to
change. One of his objectives with the Balakot attack was to show
the Indian public that he is the leader with the necessary

political will
to fight terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

Modi has certainly adopted a hardline approach toward Pakistan,
with the BJP often
threatening to go to war
. Also under Modi’s administration,
India has been experiencing a rise in right-wing Hindu nationalism,
which is not surprising in light of
Modi’s roots
in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a
Hindu-nationalist paramilitary organization accused of inciting
sectarian violence and fueled by a religious ideology that
advocates for Hinduism’s dominance within India. The RSS sees
Pakistan, a Muslim-majority neighbor, as the ultimate enemy.

Yes, but: Going to war with Pakistan would not
guarantee an electoral victory for Modi, because there’s no
evidence that launching surgical strikes within Pakistan would
deter militant groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba
— responsible
for the 2008 Mumbai attacks
— from attacking Indian
forces in Kashmir.

Rather, surgical strikes would lead to a conventional war that
would destabilize the region, potentially creating a devastating
nuclear conflict or a refugee crisis in a region already
experiencing its fair share (the Afghan crisis after the Soviet
invasion, for example, and the ongoing Rohingya crisis).

The congressional opposition, for its part, has
criticized
Modi and the BJP for politicizing the standoff with
Pakistan for its own political gains during this election
season.

The bottom line: Modi’s re-election prospects
would not be improved by his initiating a war. But unless Pakistan
re-evaluates its use of militant proxies, and unless India ceases
committing gross
human rights atrocities in Kashmir
, the two countries may
stumble into one regardless.

Sahar Khan is an adjunct scholar in the Cato Institute’s Defense and Foreign Policy Department. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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