New Delhi: The popularly-elected Pakistan government has a self-interest to keep the Pakistan army in its place. This interest is shared by India and the rest of the free world. The Pakistan army is the source of jihadi terrorism in the region. It has made Pakistan a disruptive and failed state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ventured on a rare course to contain the menace of the Pakistan army whilst building a relationship of trust with the elected government of Nawaz Sharief. This course was mentioned in earlier pieces in this magazine, and as late as Wednesday, in an article called “Hard lessons”, which has subsequently got circulated in the papers.

It will be wholesome for Pakistan to talk to India. India has lots to offer. It is the supplest emerging power of today. This is widely recognized in the West and among the major powers in other regions. Being the world’s largest democracy, India can scarcely be militaristic. India is rising. But it is rising peacefully.

India conceivably is the only genuinely status quo power the world has seen. Having been colonized, it seeks no colonies. It is neither expansionist nor hegemonic in intent. It exchanged border enclaves with Bangladesh recently. The exchange was entirely peaceful. There is no reason to fear India.

Likely all this and more is known to the elected government of Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief also well knows what has kept Pakistan down. Without peace, there can be no progress. Growth needs an even and pleasant climate. Nawaz Sharief has been a businessman. He would know how sensitive the political economy is to violence, especially the violence of terrorism.

The Pakistan army is engaged in combating what it considers “bad terrorists”, the Pakistan Taliban of various persuasions. It is also targeting the sectarian terrorist groups. If the Shias and Sunnis go at each other unstopped, it will be civil war. This good sense, however, deserts the Pakistan army and ISI when it organizes terror violence against India. You cannot firewall terrorism. One day or another, it will devour you. Pakistan has even more to worry as a nuclear state.

But if the Pakistan army cannot see reason, surely the elected government can. Europe was embroiled in sectarian and territorial disputes from the start of the Modern age. It climaxed in two world wars and a nuclear catastrophe that struck a distant Asian power. It took 500 years for passions to simmer down. India and Pakistan, in contrast, are not even 70 years old as independent nations. How can territorial differences be resolved so soon?

Once Pakistan reaches an economic level comparable to India’s, and the tide of prosperity rises as a whole in South Asia, the disputes will melt away. Once the market gets ticking and wealth-creation soars, ultra-nationalism will take a back seat. Pakistan should ponder what it is losing by lingering outside the door opened by India.

The NSA-level talks between India and Pakistan are stuck as of this writing on Pakistan’s insistence on prior consultations with the Hurriyat. Surely the consultations can happen through teleconference. The Pakistan NSA can talk all he wants to them and then take the plane to India. There can be no third party to the talks. Pakistan knows that. It should consider what it will lose by letting go this opportunity to re-engage India.

It will be eminently worthwhile for Nawaz Sharief to do business with Narendra Modi. As Modi goes about transforming India, Pakistan will be much benefitted. It is for Pakistan to choose where it wants to be in the next 25 to 50 years.