New Delhi: On the issue of Pakistani terrorism, the Narendra Modi government desires the rough equivalent of “having its cake and eating it too”. In the real world, that is not possible or at least not possible for most of us.

Years ago, India was in mortal dread of “internationalizing” the Kashmir issue. The dread has its origins in Jawaharlal Nehru’s misguidedness to take the Kashmir issue to the United Nations on the advice of the British. Newly formed and designed supposedly with none of the infirmities of the League of Nations, the United Nations evoked such faith in that early era that Harry Truman chose to fight the Korean War under its aegis. Luckily for the United States, the Russian ambassador to the UN had been withdrawn at the time over the denial of the UN Security Council permanent membership to the People’s Republic of China, which had been retained by Kuomintang Taiwan, and this prevented a Russian veto of a UN war in Korea.

In the event, for one chief reason, a UN role in Kashmir died a natural death, although Pakistan has sought to keep it alive in all these decades. A plebiscite was to be conducted in Kashmir separately held by the rival forces of India and Pakistan, but this had to be preceded by a full Pakistani military withdrawal from the part under its occupation followed by a similar action on the Indian side. Fearful of losing whatever it had won in the 1947-48 fighting, Pakistan baulked at meeting the plebiscite conditions, and this measure lapsed over time. Turning back the pages of history is not possible in most circumstances today. To that extent, Pakistan may be flogging a dead horse in the United Nations.

To obliterate a UN role once for all, Indira Gandhi used the Bangladesh War victory to impress on Pakistan to seek a bilateral solution to Kashmir. The 1972 Simla Agreement is, quite truly, the final word on a Kashmir resolution. It has to be resolved between India and Pakistan. A third country has no role. After 1972, India has steadfastly opposed international intervention or mediation in Kashmir. Since Pakistan became a rival nuclear power to India, it has upped the nuclear ante on Kashmir hoping for international intervention or mediation. It has not yielded results prior. India can no longer be sanguine though with the Narendra Modi government breaching foreign policy redlines without the smallest thought for the future.

Since Pakistan began to instigate unrest in the Valley in the late 1980s, it has sought to create a moral equivalence between its terrorism in Kashmir masqueraded as a freedom struggle and India’s administration of the region. Governments before that of Narendra Modi recognized the trap and equally too the necessity of engaging Pakistan in a dialogue in the spirit of the Simla pact. It is true that when Pakistani terrorism got out of hand as in 1999-2001 and during the 2008 Bombay carnage, India did call attention of the international community to Pakistani violence. Care was, however, exercised not to become over-dependent on international support as to inevitably open the way for international mediation, and this entailed speaking to Pakistan, however abhorrent it seemed in the hour. The calculation was that India had a good chance to convince Pakistan of maintaining status quo in a final settlement of the international border in bilateral negotiations under the terms of the Simla Agreement, and any unlimited internationalization could produce an outcome repugnant to India. It could even get a foreign power embedded in Kashmir over and above the presence of China.

The Narendra Modi regime, however, has thrown all caution to the wind. In its anxiety to isolate Pakistan for terrorism, it is erring on the side of egregiously internationalizing the Kashmir issue. One of today’s headlines points to the danger: “India slams Security Council for ‘undermining’ UN General Assembly authority.” Suppose the other side succeeds in the United Nations with a resolution to reopen the Kashmir case; where does that leave India? The government can argue that it is impossible and that India’s economic clout will prevent that possibility. But economic clout is not cast in stone. Booms and busts are integral to a market economy. Moreover, Narendra Modi has brought the economy to ruin. If the trend cannot be reversed in the next five or ten years, what happens to the much-vaunted economic clout? And if, meanwhile, Pakistan becomes indispensable to the creation of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan, and following the lead of China, other powers open their purses to Rawalpindi in gratitude or hope, won’t that leave New Delhi high and dry?

The trouble with one-man rule is that no one can caution the dictator about the pitfalls ahead. Nationalism is supposed to mask intelligence failures such as the Phulwama massacre and the Balakot airstrike. The Narendra Modi government has so imprudently rushed to internationalize Pakistani terrorism that it has opened the doors to world pressure on Kashmir. Atal Behari Vajpayee was wary of the Great Powers. He had seen the ruin they brought to the Middle East. To the extent possible, he convinced Pakistan to join in a bilateral solution to the Kashmir issue. In fits and starts, that process was continued by Manmohan Singh. On the other hand, Narendra Modi has exposed India to Great Power pressure. It is not relevant if he stays or goes after the May general election. But he has made India geopolitically vulnerable to a greater degree than before.