If in the past couple of years the surgical strikes and Balakot air strikes can be seen as bookends, India has put the squeeze on Pakistan in a number of ways, bilaterally as well as diplomatically

There was never any possibility, really, that Imran Khan would be a guest at Narendra Modi’s second swearing-in. Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, Pulwama and Balakot played a big role in the 2019 election campaign, and contributed enormously towards Modi’s second coming. Modi has sought and received a massive mandate for his tough line with Pakistan.

Second, Modi has burnt his fingers here before. The apparent affection between Modi and Nawaz Sharif in 2014 did nothing to further the cause of peace between India and Pakistan. Modi’s impulsive Santa Claus act at Nawaz Sharif’s birthday was followed by the Pathankot terror attack. In the past few years, Pakistan has not let up on terror against India.

So BIMSTEC was a convenient option. But on a larger scale, the move to delegitimise SAARC and redefine India’s immediate neighbourhood by looking eastwards, rather than being stuck in a relationship where Pakistan enjoyed a veto, has been going on for a few years now.

If in the past couple of years the surgical strikes and Balakot air strikes can be seen as bookends, India has put the squeeze on Pakistan in a number of ways, bilaterally as well as diplomatically. This has ranged from shutting off MFN, full utilisation of its share of Indus waters, stepping up ties with Pakistan’s closest friends in the Gulf. India even made a deal with China to put Pakistan on the FATF grey list! India breached the OIC barrier and engaged with that body at the highest levels. A tougher US administration has been on the Indian side of the argument, a fact that helped UNSC bend the Chinese to ban Masood Azhar.

Modi 2.0 will not be a softer Modi – he may speak softer, but India in the next five years is likely to continue to squeeze Pakistan in every way possible.

In the next couple of weeks, Modi will most likely meet Imran in Bishkek on the sidelines of the SCO summit. That should not be seen as the first step towards restarting dialogue. The best we can hope for is an NSA-level dialogue. What will India be looking out for?

At the FATF meeting in Florida scheduled to take place soon after the SCO summit, India will join the chorus to put Pakistan into the blacklist. At the very least, Pakistan is likely to stay in the grey list. In the past few weeks Pakistan has tried to take some steps to avoid the blacklist, but these might be too little too late. India would be looking for systemic changes in Pakistan that finally begins to reject the principle of using terrorism as a foreign policy tool. The Indians were inept at providing visual evidence of Balakot, but that it happened and caused significant damage there is no doubt. No matter what their public stance, Pakistan knows it. They are also beginning to realise that Modi is unpredictable enough to do it differently next time. That there will be a next time is equally without doubt.

India will look out for Pakistan ceasing what officials call “subversive activities” in the Kashmir valley – this is less visible but more insidious, including cash transfers, sabotage, intimidation, etc. This will require more work by the Indian security system.

On the LoC and boundary, the guns will not fall silent. Security forces have taken an aggressive response to infiltration and it’s unlikely to soften. Ajit Doval has led a drive to flush out militants in the Srinagar valley and successfully silenced the Hurriyat, thereby reducing the workload in the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi. Going forward, this will intensify. Where Modi 2.0 is likely to focus is in its approach to Jammu & Kashmir. An economic development initiative has started and will get more energy, certainly in the run-up to the assembly elections, which will happen sooner rather than later.

A bigger hearts and minds exercise to address the alienation inside Kashmir will need to be addressed, certainly if the Modi government wants to create conditions to repeal Article 35A and 370 that BJP has sworn it will do. Imran and Gen Bajwa will have to chew on this. In the first years of his first term, Modi wanted to do a deal with Pakistan.

Modi’s victory this time has raised the bar for engagement with Pakistan. Modi will want much more from Pakistan.