Let optimism prevail in talks between Pakistan and India

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For veterans of the Pakistan-India optimism game, the latest exchange of bitterness across the Radcliffe Line is affirmation of the hard work that remains to be done in normalising South Asia.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke the mould by inviting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration, and Sharif buoyed the optimists’ camp by accepting, things keep getting in the way.

Such is the baggage of a bitter history and the habits that come with it.

The repeated interruptions to the prime ministerial bonhomie between a former RSS activist and a former protégé of Gen Zia-Ul-Haq cover a diverse array: talking to Kashmiris, not talking about Kashmir enough, terrorism at Pathankot, and, the latest, troublemaker spies in Balochistan.

Who pushed who over? To a visionary leader invested in an integrated and connected South Asia, it doesn’t matter.

Thus far, each speed bump in the Pakistan-India dynamic was handled with subtle, but firm resolve by Sharif and Modi – whatever their detractors at home and abroad might suggest.

The Pathankot investigation represents, arguably, the most historic cooperation between New Delhi and Islamabad in the post-1965 era.

For a Pakistani Prime Minister invested deeply in normalising the relationship, and for an Indian Prime Minister who has defied expectations on Pakistan so consistently, do Indian spies in Balochistan or underwhelming results from the Pathankot investigation really represent game-changers?

The cynics are betting on it. The veterans of the Pakistan-India optimism game are hoping otherwise.

Smart money is on the optimists. 2016 is the year that Pakistan hosts the SAARC summit. An occasion too important to be allowed to be ruined, especially for Modi, whose sense of occasion and appetite to create history is already the stuff of legend.

 

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