October 2, 2016

After surgical strikes, what’s next for India-Pakistan relations?

The following article originally appeared in The Washington Post's Global Opinions section on October 2, 2016. An excerpt is below. The full text can be found here

India’s surgical strikes represent part of a continuing turnaround in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Pakistan policy. Although expected by many to be a nationalist hawk when he was first elected, Modi invested considerable energy and capital in engaging Pakistan during his first two years in office. Among other things, he invited his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to his inauguration ceremony in 2014, and last year visited Sharif’s home in Pakistan on an unscheduled stopover.

But India’s attitude began to harden in July, when Pakistan tried to gain diplomatic and political mileage out of popular protests in Indian-administered Kashmir. Modi responded by refusing to condemn a devastating terrorist attack in the Pakistani city of Quetta in August. For the first time, he also raised Pakistani human rights abuses in Balochistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir in his annual Independence Day speech on Aug. 15. The Uri attack only set back relations further, hardening Indian resolve.

In the days that followed the Uri attack, Indian political, military and diplomatic leaders deliberated various options. In his first speech after the attack, Modi gave a firm but measured response and made a point to distinguish between Pakistan’s people and its leadership. India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, followed up with a sharp speech at the United Nations, which framed Pakistan-based terrorism as a global challenge — with links to recent attacks in New York, Brussels, Kabul and Dhaka — and stepped up Indian rhetoric on Pakistani human rights abuses in Balochistan.