New Delhi: Now that the excitement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden stopover in Lahore has abated, its impact on India-Pakistan relations may be rationally analyzed. This piece will analyze the short- and long-term impacts of the visit.

In the short term, Modi’s extraordinary meeting with Nawaz Sharif in his home city carries the force of a troops’ surge on a stalemated campaign. It could change the course of the future provided correct decisions are taken and the momentum does not flag.

Modi’s Lahore venture is organically linked to the hush-hush Bangkok meeting of the Indian and Pakistani National Security Advisors. The initiatives in both instances have originated from India. This is not to brag about them because foreign policy flounders on hubris. The asymmetric power of the two countries makes this inevitable despite the common possession of nuclear weapons. It was also at the Prime Minister’s initiative and invitation that Nawaz Sharif (graciously) attended Modi’s inauguration.

What these sequential initiatives prove is that Narendra Modi has driven them. The role of foreign Great Powers, especially of the United States, is the least decisive here. India has outgrown external pressures long ago.

Neither do these engagements show a change in Modi’s mindset. He is as keen on peace with Pakistan (terrorism contained, naturally) as when he commenced his term. He has only changed his approach.

His attempts to build a personal equation with Nawaz Sharif are unexceptionable. This is common in international democracy, par for the course for Modi, and reflects his self-confidence. He is on the same plane with the Presidents of the US, Russia and China, with the German Chancellor, the Prime Minister of Britain, and so on.

Where his changed approach with Pakistan became evident was at the Bangkok NSAs’ conference. The public and press of both nations were kept unawares of the conference till the two governments revealed it. And with the Indian Foreign Minister’s statement in Parliament about Bangkok, even an aggrieved opposition felt assuaged.

Modi and Nawaz Sharif share a feeling that quiet diplomacy will produce more results than a frenzied, media-driven event. And with the Pakistan NSA being a former general, the Pakistan Army senses a plum role in the negotiations. So much for the short-term impact of Modi’s Lahore detour.

Other factors, however, will drive long-term India-Pakistan relations, and they haven’t substantially changed. Pakistan has a maximalist position on Kashmir while India rationally accepts the Line of Control (LoC) as the border. A former Pakistan President, Z. A. Bhutto, accepted this status informally at the 1972 Simla Conference but could not rally his country. It still remains the only sensible solution to the Kashmir issue.

The Pakistan civilian leadership which is ultimately accountable for the country’s growth and development understands the pointlessness of shrilling about Kashmir. It is deflecting Pakistan’s energies and threatening militancy and militarism of an order to consume the state.

Anyone who knows Germany’s immediate post-war history would shudder at the prospect of its repetition in Pakistan, made infinitely worse with Islamism, and without the alleviating benefit of Wirtschaftswunder, a curiously German phenomenon. The Pakistan Army should know that peace, growth and development are the way forward for Pakistan, not revanchism.

Prime Minister Modi has the same message for Pakistan. The world has reached a point of perfect balance of power as perhaps could not be imagined when the same general principle brought peace to Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. Countries cannot be unmade and remade anymore today. At its weakest in the present, Syria holds steady, as Iraq did some years ago, while Afghanistan persists indestructibly in its travails.

Much is made of Narendra Modi as a Bharatiya Janata Party Prime Minister who can take Indo-Pak relations to a level impossible for other party PMs. This needlessly denigrates his predecessors and is a narrative wisely abandoned. The former Prime Minister, A. B. Vajpayee, pointedly visited the Minar-e-Pakistan to advertise total reconciliation with the Partition. The only exceptional point is that he did it first.

The LoC-as-border formula was advanced in Simla by Indira Gandhi. It was purely incidental that she belonged to the Congress party. It remains the guiding light of Indian policy on Kashmir, though unofficial. Beyond its concessionary terms, India cannot do more. It is a concession of peace to Pakistan to end the wars and move to a goal of South Asian prosperity.

That position binds Modi and all future Prime Ministers, whatever party they belong to. Modi and the Prime Ministers before him have all carried the same message to Pakistan: Strong economic ties will erase the hurt of past conflicts.

It is most important for the Pakistan Army to receive this message. It should be receptive to the pleas of its wealth creators, from the powerhouse cities of Lahore and Karachi, to normalize relations with India and profit from its growth and development.

Prime Minister Modi’s goodwill visit to Lahore has all the potential to lead India and Pakistan in that direction.