A week after an unprecedented verdict in the Indian general elections delivered Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi with a humbling experience, he is all set to take the reins of a divided coalition government. That Mr Modi and his party would have to answer some twisted questions about the popularity of their divisive politics and hate-driven agenda is a no-brainer, especially after he lost control over Uttar Pradesh, a state considered to be his fortress. But while the Indian electorate has cast the dye and its growing disinterest in the Modi brand often associated with Hindutva ideology is bound to force the ruling elite to (at least) lower the volume, if not change the track altogether, these new dynamics do offer a region perpetually mired in hostility a rare chance to start afresh.
If Mr Modi and his cabinet truly wish to deal with the ghosts of a ghastly campaign, they would know better than to kill the glimmer of hope for a respite from the tumultuous relationship between Pakistan and India. Despite years of conflict and animosity, there have been recent efforts towards reconciliation and peace talks. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, along with other prominent leaders such as Maryam Nawaz and Ishaq Dar, have extended olive branches; expressing a willingness to engage in dialogue.
The delayed and extremely brief congratulatory social media post from the PM’s office stands in stark contrast to the warm embrace shared by his elder brother at the oath-taking ceremony held in New Delhi a decade earlier. However, this small gesture of goodwill could still mark a turning point in the strained relations if reciprocated by India. PM Sharif’s commitment to set aside past differences and work towards a more peaceful and cooperative future was only recently brutally trolled by Mr Modi as a part of his offensive election campaign.
Today, when the frenzy has died down and ordinary Indians wish to focus on the issues that really matter, Islamabad’s offer would offer a much-needed push to move beyond historical grievances. As leaders, those responsible for the affairs of one of the most densely-populated regions in the world should know better than to close the door on possibilities of peace, even in the midst of conflict and tension.