4 December 2013: The failure of Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government to resolve India-Pakistan disputes should have put an end to the notion that a Bharatiya Janata Party administration at the Centre would give miraculous fillip to peace between the hostile neighbours. But apparently, according to media reports, Pakistanis still hold to that view, and therefore look favourably to Narendra Modi to be able to bring the two countries closer when he becomes prime minister. At least on the Indian side, it is best not to have such exuberant expectations, and unless Pakistan makes extraordinary concessions to the future Modi government, expect no change on the western frontier.

The Pakistanis believe that as they are ruled -- or rather misruled -- by right-wing forces, a similar dispensation in India would enable a prompt settlement of the outstanding issues. In their opinion, a Bharatiya Janata Party government constitutes a right-wing administration. This is lazy thinking and moreover quite inaccurate. The Vajpayee government was scarcely more right-wing than previous or successive governments. Secularism is a constitutional provision and gross communal awards will be struck down by courts before long. Modi runs a clinically secular government in Gujarat where the administration does not practise religious discrimination. This is obviously true of all the Bharatiya Janata Party state governments. So, much as the Pakistanis may like to see India in Pakistan’s mould, the reality is something else. At the very least, a Narendra Modi government at the Centre will not be right-wing, however much ideologues may portray it so.

Equally, a Narendra Modi government would face the same hurdles as any other that seeks peace with Pakistan. Countries have a maximum and minimum position on contentious matters. India’s maximum position is the return of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. There is a Parliament resolution to that effect. In actual negotiations, and even more so when a future settlement needs ratification, this resolution would become a sticking point. India’s minimum position is preservation and legalization of the status quo, which in Jammu and Kashmir’s context means acceptance of the Line of Control as the international border. India would settle for the status quo, and in previous opportunities presented by victorious wars, this country has not unilaterally altered the map lines in the west. The problem obviously lies with and within Pakistan, and the election of a Bharatiya Janata Party government would make no difference to that.

Pakistan’s identity has been forged by its hatred for India. Its obsession about Kashmir is part of a bigger psychosis. It does believe Kashmir forms the core of the unfinished transaction of Partition, but it also wants to possess it, preferably by military means, because it is convinced it would lead to the unravelling of India. Here, a third factor nourishes its hatred, which is India’s cleaving of East from West Pakistan and transforming it into independent Bangladesh. Forgetting that internal strife provoked that division, Pakistan wants to pay India back with the same coin.

This is delusional thinking, but Pakistan must have to get out of it. The people of Pakistan must repeatedly exercise their franchise in a manner that strengthens democratic forces in the country and gradually secludes the military in the barracks. A strong, democratic government can, in the conceivable future, be able to put the military in place, destroy the terror groups, and take charge of foreign affairs with the primary aim to mend relations with India. That is the direction that Pakistan must -- and has to -- take. India cannot contribute more than it already has. India has no designs on Pakistan. Like the rest of the world, India is worried about Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into terrorist hands. And despite grievous acts of terrorism, India has not militarily retaliated, although patience is wearing thin.

In the circumstances, the onus of making peace entirely lies with Pakistan. No Indian government will be able to make territorial concessions to Pakistan. Kashmir is an integral part and its status cannot be changed. There couldn’t be a more liberal prime minister than Vajpayee but even his hands were tied. On the other hand, Narendra Modi is in the mould of Sardar Patel, and he will consolidate the Centre, which means the room for manoeuvre on issues like Kashmir becomes very limited. In the final analysis, Pakistanis cannot -- and should not --expect dramatic progress in India-Pakistan ties under Narendra Modi. If anything, the realization will dawn that Pakistan will gain by circumscribing its national ambitions and making the best of what it has. The age of expansionism is past.