The Illusion And Mirage Of Indo-Pak Talks


Indo Pak talks will remain a mirage. All that will happen for and in the foreseeable future will be rhetorical obfuscation and ‘noise” made at different levels of government on either side of the border will be akin to “trotting out old chestnuts”.( It may be stated here that trotting out an old chestnut is an idiom which means “ an idea , joke or an argument that has been discussed so many times that it ceases to be interesting or funny anymore). Grist to the mill of our assertion is fed by the respective statements of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan’s advisor to the Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz.  The former in a Times Now interview a couple of days ago , in so many words, reiterated what has now become a mantra for the establishment in India: India remains committed to peace with Pakistan but [……], and that it was easy for India to convince the world on “terrorism”. The implication here being that Pakistan and terrorism were related. Similarly, Sartaj Aziz, has stated that Pakistan wanted to have peaceful relations with India but would not back away from its “principled” stance on Kashmir.
In essence, neither Modi nor Aziz has stated anything new.
The bottom line is that that neither country appears to be interested in peaceful relations with each other despite the fact that peace between the two essentially constitutes their real and abiding national interest. Peace or , in the least, normal relations between India and Pakistan would be salubrious for both in terms of the peace dividend- development, focus on nagging priorities like poverty amelioration, economic growth and internal security. The question is: why cant the two live peacefully?
The answer, hackneyed as it is, pertains to sovereigntism and the very Ideas of India and Pakistan. Both are in the nature of a zero sum dynamic which privileges maximalism over a sober and nuanced give and take- the essence of negotiations and dialogue.  Given this zero sum, maximalist dynamic informed by territorial nationalism, negotiations between India and Pakistan can only happen under a stressful condition and that too when pressure(covert or overt ) is sought to bear upon the countries. Insofar as contemporary drift of international relations and politics is concerned, this “pressure” will not be forthcoming. The reasons pertain to the crowded agenda on the plate of the United States on account of more pressing and exigent issues elsewhere- the Middle East, Ukraine and assorted economic issues. Relations between India and Pakistan albeit important are far off from the concerns of powers that be.
What implications flow from this on the region and Kashmir
The region will remain wedded to the status quo- a condition which may seem satisfactory to some but carried within it seeds of recrudescence of conflict –perhaps even of a militarized nature. In this condition, Kashmir will be central to the matrix. As the status quo in the region gets frozen and as contextual conditions change, Kashmir might descend into violence and carry India and Pakistan into the vortex of this violence. It is then that the international community will take notice and intervene to essentially take either country away from the brink. This diplomacy will correspond to “crisis diplomacy” will be typical and it will be in the nature of a palliative. The essential issues will remain till another crisis makes diplomatic intervention exigent.  But this cycle can go on only to an extent. If more hostile forces in both India and Pakistan assume power and the conflict gets cast in a religious idiom, then the consequences will be obvious. It is this extreme scenario that must be pre-empted and the most prudent way to do so is dialogue and talks with the qualification that these be carried out with sincerity and good will. Otherwise, in any case, it ,may be “ too little , too late”.

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