Start with the menacing background, before asking: are there things that Modi could put on the table that could produce fruitful talks with Pakistan. The background is certainly menacing enough. Both Pakistan and India have over 100 nuclear warheads Pakistan is building more at a breakneck pace. Indeed, at this rate, in a few years Pakistan will be the third largest nuclear-armed power in the world, surpassing China and Great Britain.
Pakistan has also successfully played with in Nixon’s time was called the “China card.” In a particular example, it has basically given China a naval port on the Bay of Bengal, from which it can sharply increase its military presence in the Indian Ocean. There could easily be a naval competition between Pakistan (bolstered by China) and India.
India is not just standing by. It has a vastly bigger and stronger economy than Pakistan. This supports massive purchases by India of armaments from many world sources. For example, India has long been armed with Russian weapons, going back to India’s closeness during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Recently India has restocked and upgraded this arsenal with purchases of billions of dollars more of Russian armaments. India also signed an agreement with the United States for joint atomic development efforts. This is to be directed to civilian purposes, but it is predictable for Pakistan to worry.
In the long run, India’s greater economic strength means that Pakistan cannot “win” an arms race. But this kind of arms race is one that two sides both lose. .