Pak envoy to India: Let's not keep ties hostage to Kashmir

SRINAGAR: Pakistan would not like to see its relations with India being "kept hostage" to the Kashmir issue, its envoy Abdul Basit said here today while hoping for early resumption of the stalled dialogue process and pitching for building of ties.

"If you recall, there are 10 segments within the framework of the composite dialogue and Jammu and Kashmir is one of them. We would not like our relationship to be kept hostage to one single issue," he said in a media interaction at the Hyderabad Press Club.

"We would like to talk and sincere efforts should be made to resolve it," the High Commissioner said.

Hoping that the stalled dialogue process will resume soon, he said, "Minister for External Affairs Hon'ble Sushma Swaraj had said there are no full stops in diplomacy. I concur with her that in diplomacy. You do not completely shut it down.

So, let's hope there are possibilities that will emerge. So, I am hopeful."

His obvious, but unstated, reference was to a possible meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif at the Saarc summit in Kathmandu less than two weeks later, a multilateral event which the two prime ministers would be attending.

“This is as direct as it can be! Pakistan, after all, wants a bilateral meeting between Sharif and Modi in Kathmandu on the sidelines of the Saarc summit” wrote Rajeev Sharma, in news portal First Post.

If one looks at it pragmatically, it is rare for the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers to attend a regional summit like Saarc and not have a bilateral meeting or at least a pull-aside.

There is one instance in the living memory when the two principals from India and Pakistan attended the Saarc summit but did not have a bilateral meeting. This happened in January 2002 at the 11th Saarc summit, ironically also in Kathmandu.

But those were the difficult times in the India-Pakistan relations which had touched a nadir in the wake of a daring terror attack on Indian Parliament weeks ago. The then Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf had stunned everyone with his impromptu handshake with the then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Twelve years later, a lot has changed, Sharma opines.

“One, though carrying forward the legacy of Vajpayee, Modi is comparatively a stronger premier as he has won much bigger political mandate.

Two, unlike Vajpayee, Modi is neither saddled with the coalition dharma nor the RSS nor a political heavyweight number two like LK Advani. Modi is the supreme leader – within the government as well as the party. Besides, there is no number two!

Three, the Indian economy today is almost reaching the two trillion dollar club with the current GDP pegged at $1.8 trillion. In contrast, the Pakistani GDP is a mere $250 billion.

Four, there has been role reversal of sorts with regard to terror attacks. In the Vajpayee era, the terror attacks were mainly targeted at India with all-round support from Pakistan. Today, the terror attacks in India are few and far between while in Pakistan mayhem caused by terrorists is a daily happening. Thus the terror knife that Pakistan had so painstakingly sharpened over the decades for delivering a thousand cuts to India is now pointed inwards. The Pakistani terror apparatus is now threatening to consume the very laboratory.

Five, the strategic leverage of its most potent weapon, nuclear weapons that Pakistan had been using in its narrative with India during the Vajpayee days has gone down substantially.

Pakistan gets a strategic leverage of its nukes only when things turn ugly between India and Pakistan on the military front. Islamabad cannot play its nuclear card with India if there is no Kargil-type situation or a situation wherein terrorists are running amok in India. Neither of this is true currently.

Therefore, against the backdrop of all this, Modi is under no compulsion whatsoever to have a bilateral meeting with his Pakistani counterpart in Kathmandu later this month.

But yet the fact is what Vajpayee often said: one can change one’s friends, but not one’s neighbours.

Modi will be burdened with a foreign policy compulsion of staying engaged with Pakistan, if not for anything else but to keep the international community at bay. Sharma writes.

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