Laughing out Loud on the Indo-Pak sit com

The NSA Potpourri

THE prelude to the talks between India and Pakistan at the NSA level has morphed into a veritable sit com. Or , perhaps, more accurately, a tragicomedy. A familiar plot and narrative is being trotted out with such effect that an observer can but only, to use the parlance of cyber space, laugh out loud (lol). But, alas, one can’t really lol despite the provocation to do so because the premise of the talks: some sort of a Modus Vivendi between India and Pakistan to resolve their outstanding issues and some form of closure over the core sticking points.

The context to the comic narrative was set by the arrest of a militant purportedly responsible for the Udhampur attacks, Naveed Yaqub.  A half baked militant who was a naïf or well perhaps, intellectually challenged, hogged the headlines; parallels were drawn between him and the main perpetrator of the Mumbai attacks, Ajmal Kasaab. India, it was held and maintained, was under attack again. A deep conspiracy was inferred from an incident that was, if one may speculate, in all likelihood, a lone wolf, entrepreneurial attack by a couple of teenagers, given a task , probably , in jest, by their handlers. The media went berserk with all sorts of theories and inflated the importance of the incident. (Meanwhile, it is heard that Naveed misses the lullaby sung by his mother to him every night and has requested authorities for a surrogate mom to do this for him).

Now, just on the eve of the NSA talks, Pakistan dropped what amounts to a bombshell on the Indian side: the country insisted upon India to include the Hurriyat guys in the roster of invitees. The state responded by first arresting the Hurriyat leaders and then releasing them. The style was classic: in the nature of a manic depressive patient, or someone on a high , surging from one end of the spectrum to another in a breathtakingly small amount of time. The media, naturally, went bombastic. A twist in the tale was gleaned from this and speculations galore were articulated in prime time. (It is heard that  the hot air that ‘experts’ spewed on TV was hotter than Delhi’s weather).

All these incidents, correspond to , a familiar plot, a familiar theme and a well known cast of characters. This is what makes it both tragic and comic. It is comic because much ado is made about nothing in the conflictual dynamic between India and Pakistan. Essentially, the two estranged neighbors do not want to talk but they want to give an appearance of talking , against what each country would like the world to believe , ‘grave’ provocations. The end of the play or drama is known in advance to both players but both pay lip service to talks in almost a manner, given its repetition across time,  that seems eerily scripted and in the nature of a charade.( It is heard that it is the  presence of ventriloquists that deprives the charade of its dumb nature).

This is what makes it tragic. The future of entire peoples in the subcontinent is held hostage to structural animus between India and Pakistan. The future of the subcontinent is contingent on peace and good relations between the two countries but because the two states cannot countenance each other and because legacy , historical and structural issues intervene to make the relationship more hostile, the Indo Pak dynamic is stuck in a time warp. What more can be unfortunate and sad than this especially when much of the world is and has moved on?

The NSA level talks will then correspond to type: initial fake bon homie for the cameras, allegations and counter allegations thrown by the representatives of the two countries at each other, break down or stalemate and then photo ops. The real and nagging issues and sticking points between India and Pakistan will have been elided over or ignored and the conflictual paradigm of relations between the two countries will revert to type again. The status quo will prevail. This would, among other things, mean that Indo Pak relationship will gyrate to the rhythm of a state centric paradigm where each side’s loss is another’s game or vice versa. In this schema, neither side will yield or even negotiate in terms where a give and take is possible. This means stalemate which, if I don the hat of a conspiracy theorist, may be the end game or end goal of protagonists on either side of the divide. The NSA talks then are in the nature of lip gloss to a relationship that is stuck in a deep conflictual paradigm. The rest or the drama surrounding the talks is then akin to Potpourri- the sub continental variety- whose taste and texture is foreknown. This, unfortunately, is not something that can be lol-led at.

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