Indo-Pak talks: All about rhetoric and theatrics

Neelu Vyas

modi_sharifIt’s time for the policy makers of India and Pakistan to ponder over the seriousness of the relationship between the two hostile neighbours. Is the recent fiasco about theatrics, about optics, or is it just about catering to the respective domestic constituencies? Well, since diplomacy does not allow all this to be spelt in clear terms, the intention behind any serious dialogue between the two countries will always be questioned. Just like it has been questioned in the past.

To talk or not to talk is the million dollar question. Will any kind of dialogue really help since both these nations have always been seen to agree to disagree on all issues?

If India pitches Pakistan-sponsored terror as the main driver of all its dialogues, for Pakistan it’s only about the K (Kashmir) word. The hardnosed stand taken by both these countries is understandable given the fact that United Nations General Assembly is meeting in September. Both nations are keen to be seen working their way to etch out a framework of cordiality. At the same time both of them want to put the lens on the hot button issues which they want the world to notice.

Both India and Pakistan are very clear about their UNGA agenda. Buckling under its own political pressure, Pakistan seems to have outwitted India for the moment. The country has managed to not budge from its stand to meet Hurriyat leaders. Irrespective of what India thinks, Pakistan does recognise Hurriyat as an important stakeholder when it comes to resolving the Kashmir issue. And this is exactly what Pakistan wants to convey to the world ahead of the crucial UNGA meet. Here, Pakistan seems to have emerged as a diplomatic winner.

India, in contrast, seems to have got its script wrong. At least the timing of the house arrest of the Hurriyat leaders did not indicate good diplomacy. Pakistan meeting the Hurriyat is not new. What perhaps looks like a changed process is India’s steely resolve to send a message to the world that Kashmir is not on its agenda when it comes to a dialogue with Pakistan and that India does not appreciate Hurriyat’s political participation.

After the much hyped Ufa summit in Russia, India seems to have got its diplomacy wrong. The recent ceasefire violations and the terror strike in Gurdaspur have forced India to up its ante against Pakistan. But the fact remains that both countries have continuously provoked each other to attain their political ends with the underlining message that no dialogue would help.

In all the past summits – be it Shimla, Agra or Lahore – it has been seen that Siachen, Kashmir insurgency and the Kargil war has been a major bone of contention between India and Pakistan. But then again the two nations have seen Confidence Building Measures like the Lahore Bus service. Such CBMs, though, have always been impeded by terrorist strikes.

Even the world knows that no amount of pressure can bring the two nations to come to a common meeting point. So, can the policy makers of India and Pakistan seriously redraw their proclivity towards each other? Is a genuine talk really possible? Can a new start really be made? Well the doubt quotient seems to be very high. The real test of diplomacy will be to adopt a slow burn process that keeps peace in the Kashmir valley and the region as its focal point to avoid major flashpoints, and of course keep the rhetoric high.