Talks, but no talks

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Just when we thought that the dialogue  between India and Pakistan has been hopelessly hampered by the Pathankot attack followed by the arrest of an alleged Indian spy in Balochistan, foreign secretaries met in New Delhi to discuss the resumption of the formal dialogue – albeit on the sidelines of a multilateral Heart of Asia meet, which India is hosting.. However, there was little in the meeting that signalled that the two countries were back to a normal engagement. Both sides seemed to be putting up a show of dialogue than engaging in serious talks geared to sorting out their issues. In fact, both S Jaishankar and Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry didn’t even issue a joint statement. They didn’t even come before the media. Instead both gave aggressive individual statements which spoke of their individual rather than the joint issues discussed in the meeting. There was no word on the new dates, time frame, or the modalities of the future course of engagement. Also, the two sides remain far from finalizing the contours of the Comprehensive Dialogue process which is supposed to subsume the range of the bilateral issues including terrorism and Kashmir. Soon after the talks were over, the foreign offices of the two countries launched a barrage of tweets outlining their respective issues.

“FS emphasized that Kashmir remains the core issue that requires a just solution in accordance with UNSC resolutions & wishes of Kashmiri people. All outstanding issues including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute were discussed,” posted  the Twitter account  of the High Commissioner for Pakistan.

And India’s Ministry of External Affairs tweeted:  “Foreign Secretary Jaishankar clearly conveyed that Pakistan cannot be in denial on the impact of terrorism on the bilateral relationship. Terrorist groups based in Pakistan targeting India must not be allowed to operate with impunity”.

Both tweets reiterate the traditional positions of the two countries with an undercurrent of the mutual hostility. In fact, Pakistan seems to have given up its pro-active dialogue begging behaviour towards India and instead sought to meet India’s belligerence with belligerence. So much so that Islamabad now assertively faces New Delhi’s accusations of terror, seeking instead to draw a moral equivalence between the terror emanating from Pakistan and the one allegedly being directed by India in Pakistan. The capture of the alleged RAW agent Kulbushan Jadav has come handy to Islamabad to beat back India on Pathankot.

There is, thus,  no visible dialogue and at the same time the engagement has also not been suspended. After a heady spell of bonhomie in November, December, the dialogue process has struggled to override the messy fallout of Pathankot attack and now the capture of Jadav. The  Pathankot followed soon after the impromptu Christmas visit of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Lahore. And ever since the bilateral effort at the resumption of the dialogue has focussed on the probe into Pathankot. India is now aiming to send the team of National Investigative Agency to Pakistan to carry forward the investigation. Pakistan’s Joint Investigation Team recently visited Pathankot to collect evidence against the alleged perpetrators of the Pathankot. But nothing seems to have added up so far.  India continues to seek the focus of the talks on terror and Islamabad seeks the resolution of the political issues, including Kashmir. To get to the true engagement, the two countries will have to get out of this rut and focus on a long term meaningful engagement that seeks to honestly address the festering issues between them. A distant hope, indeed.

 

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