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BJP might turn hawkish, fears Pak media

By K J M Varma in Islamabad
May 14, 2004 15:54 IST
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Taking a grim view of the change of guard in India, media here today said it was a matter of "concern" for Pakistan as the BJP may turn its back on peace initiative of outgoing Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and revert to pro-Hindu and anti-Pakistan rhetoric to stage a comeback.

While TV channels had lengthy discussions on the likely impact of the fall of the Vajpayee government, the print media covered the Lok Sabha polls outcome extensively.

"The election results will be a matter of concern for Pakistan as much was being put in store by a victorious Vajpayee taking the peace and normalisation process to its fruition," The News said in an editorial.

It said that Vajpayee was seen here as a highly successful chief executive mainly because he had overcome years of tension and bitterness between the two neighbours. 

Apparently referring to Congress President Sonia Gandhi's remark that peace process with Pakistan would continue, the daily said "the future Prime Minister of India has uttered the usual encouraging words".

However, given the "heavy" United States "input" that went into leading India and Pakistan to the negotiating table, it can be expected the process will be maintained by the new Indian management, the paper said.  

It said India's policy towards Pakistan is a carefully crafted strategy which is based on extensive studies and  calculations. It is not like "our India policy which mainly depends on thinking of the presiding leader".

"Of concern to Pakistan is that without Vajpayee's moderate leadership, the BJP was likely to revert to its pro-Hindu, anti-Pakistan rhetoric again and put the Congress government on the defensive," noted Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi said in a front page comment in Daily Times.

 Paying compliments to Vajpayee, Sethi wrote that the Indian leader seem to to have a personal stake in building the historic peace with Pakistan. "He risked Lahore Summit in 1999. He braved Agra in 2001 despite the bitter experience of Kargil. Despite the terrorist attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001, he persisted with his goal and reopened negotiations with Pakistan early this year.

"And despite dire warnings of terrorist attacks, he went ahead and risked a cricket tour with Pakistan two months ago. In fact he staked progress on the critical issues with Pakistan on the basis of returning to power in a much stronger position than before. That is why he left the real dialogue with Pakistan until after the elections. But all that has changed now" he said.

About Sonia Gandhi, he said she will lead a "weak"  Congress coalition as such the new government will not be able  to make any significant "concessions" to Pakistan mainly  because she would be vulnerable to opposition charges of  undermining the "national interests". 

The new Indian Government, Sethi wrote, may also be expected to review the whole range of issues already discussed  between the Vajpayee government and General Pervez Musharraf's team.

"This is natural. Any Government would want to calibrate policy according to its own perceptions and interests. But this is likely to lead to delays in reviewing and moving ahead with the agenda already agreed upon between Musharraf and Vajpayee. This could become problematic," he said. 

The daily Dawn in its editorial took a more balanced view about the change of guard in India.

"Judging from the pronouncements of various political leaders, it appears the government which takes over in New Delhi will sustain the BJP policy on Pakistan and Kashmir," it said.

"Since this did not emerge as a major issue in the poll campaign, one can safely assume that the Indian electorate favours peace with Pakistan. It can only be hoped that the  BJP in opposition will not suddenly turn hawkish on this issue," it said.

Describing the Indian poll outcome as the "real and stunning electoral upset", Pakistan Observer said that Indo-Pak relationship is the regional imperative.

It also said that "Kashmir is the core issue between the two countries and there cannot be peace in the region without addressing this longstanding issue" keeping in view the aspirations of the Kashmiri people. 

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K J M Varma in Islamabad
Source: PTI© Copyright 2022 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.