Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dramatic touchdown in Lahore has been criticised by the Congress. But behind its accusations that an Indian industrialist, rather than the Foreign Office, had arranged the meeting, there is some angst that Manmohan Singh was “not allowed” to go to Pakistan by a hawkish BJP, and some serious concerns about Mr. Modi’s “personalised style of diplomacy”.
“Despite the statesman-like gesture,” the former Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid told The Hindu , “we are puzzled why our government was prohibited from going to Pakistan. Dr. Manmohan Singh had dreamt of bringing India and Pakistan closer — there was excellent chemistry between him and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.”
“Dr. Singh could not have gone to Pakistan without the BJP creating mayhem at home,” he said.
Another former Minister in the previous UPA government said, “It was Dr. Manmohan Singh’s dream but it is far easier for a BJP than a Congress government to make this sort of gesture. If Dr. Singh had gone, the BJP would have accused him of compromising national interest. He also knew there was more to diplomacy than mere theatrics and optics.” The former Minister added that after his initiative in Sharm el-Sheikh received a great deal of criticism at home, Dr. Singh had grown extremely cautious. “Dr. Singh wanted to go through the institutionalised system, he had thought out [improving relations with Pakistan] better,” the former Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh explained.
The primary concern in the Congress, of course, is that the Prime Minister, by bypassing the institutional system through which foreign policy works, has aroused hopes that may not be sustainable.
Mr. Khurshid also stressed the need for “some perspective”: “Go back to the speech the PM made in Kabul — that I believe was greatly applauded — about Afghanistan not being safe till terror from across the border ended. A few hours later, he embraced the PM of Pakistan,” Mr. Khurshid argued.