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Editorial: A Chance for a BJP Rethink

Forced to rely on coalition allies after a weak showing in India’s election, all eyes on whether Narendra Modi will now soften his anti-Pakistan rhetoric

by Editorial

File photo. Ishara S. Kodikara—AFP

In a message congratulating Narendra Modi on assuming the Prime Minister’s Office in India for a third time, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) President Nawaz Sharif this week urged peace between the rival nations—in stark contrast with Modi’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric on the campaign trail. “Your party’s success in recent elections reflects the confidence of the people in your leadership,” wrote Sharif in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “Let us replace hate with hope and seize the opportunity to shape the destiny of the two billion people of South Asia,” he added. In response, Modi “appreciated” Sharif’s message but did not offer any signs of a thaw. “The people of India have always stood for peace, security and progressive ideas. Advancing the well-being and security of our people shall always remain our priority,” he said.

Sharif’s message, issued in an informal capacity, was far more effusive than that of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who merely offered felicitations for Modi on his assuming office for a third time. The BJP garnered just 240 votes in this year’s elections against the 272 needed for a simple majority and is relying on coalition allies to form government. By contrast, the opposition alliance won 232 seats, doubling its strength from the last election. Modi’s weak showing has been attributed to the BJP losing ground in its former strongholds, indicating his divisive campaign did not bear fruit. However, does this indicate a change in the offing for how India thinks of itself and its neighbors? Or will the BJP double down on its anti-Pakistan rhetoric to regain popularity? Most experts in Pakistan believe in the latter.

The past decade has seen Modi and the BJP enjoying significant dominance over India’s national politics. This stands to change in his current tenure, as he would have to reckon with the challenges of coalition politics. Not that this would have much impact on Delhi’s ties with Islamabad, claims pundits, in light of India’s core stance of regarding Pakistan as an enemy state. Yet, hope persists. Former senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed has claimed the BJP’s electoral decline will see “a more chastened and somewhat weakened Modi” that could yield “a more subdued Indian approach to Pakistan in terms of tone and rhetoric.” This view reflects the elder Sharif’s hope for peace, but appears premature, especially as the default position of the BJP—and Modi—has always been to intensify its anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim rhetoric to boost its standing among the Hindu majority. Peace between the neighboring nations, it seems, will remain elusive.

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