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In the complex and often volatile realm of South Asian geopolitics, the dynamics between India and Pakistan have long been a focal point of international attention. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s approach towards Pakistan, characterized by a blend of toughness and cautious pragmatism, reflects the intricacies of this relationship and India’s broader strategic imperatives.

Michael Kugelman, a director at the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute, aptly characterizes Modi’s recent comments on Pakistan as unsurprising. Since the Uri and Pathankot attacks in 2015, which occurred shortly after his surprise visit to Lahore, Modi has adopted a consistently tough stance towards Pakistan, showing little interest in bilateral engagement. His visit to Lahore was initially hailed as a potential breakthrough akin to Nixon’s historic trip to China, but the subsequent attacks dashed hopes of a lasting détente.

The security risks associated with engaging Pakistan, particularly in light of past terrorist incidents, have undoubtedly influenced Modi’s approach. The memories of Uri and Pathankot loom large, underscoring the inherent challenges and vulnerabilities of bilateral dialogue. Furthermore, there is a notable ideological dimension to Modi’s stance, with a commitment to a firm and unwavering response to perceived threats from across the border.

Economic considerations also play a significant role in shaping India’s Pakistan policy. Despite Pakistan’s hopes of reopening trade with India, Modi’s government remains skeptical, viewing economic engagement as both politically unfeasible and strategically irrelevant. The absence of tangible economic incentives further dampens prospects for improved relations between the two neighbors.

However, amidst the rhetoric of confrontation, it would be erroneous to suggest that India seeks to escalate tensions with Pakistan. Modi’s primary external concern lies in countering the rising influence of China, particularly along the disputed border region. By maintaining a degree of stability in its relations with Pakistan, India aims to allocate greater strategic attention and resources towards addressing the complex challenges posed by China’s assertive behavior.

The recent ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) serves as a notable example of India’s nuanced approach towards Pakistan. The truce, implemented in 2021, reflects a calculated effort to de-escalate tensions along the Indo-Pak border, thereby allowing for a more focused response to the challenges emanating from China. While domestic politics in India often feature fiery rhetoric against Pakistan, such displays are largely performative and do not necessarily reflect the intricacies of diplomatic strategy.