Halted Dialogue

WITH the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan hogging the regional and world attention, India, Pakistan relations and Kashmir have been relegated to the background. And understandably so. Afghanistan has plunged into a full-blown war between the Taliban and the government in Kabul, with the former now controlling more than half the country. The US intelligence reports say that the Taliban could take over Afghanistan within 90 days.

This has put all other  regional concerns on a pause, among these India, Pakistan ties. After the agreement on a ceasefire along the Line of Control early this year, the two countries have failed to build on the goodwill. There have been no further measures, nor does it look likely there will be any in the near future. New Delhi seems in no hurry to do this. If anything, this only goes on to show that India feels little pressure to relent. Nor does it want to push the current engagement with Islamabad beyond a point. The unmistakable signal to Pakistan is to temper its expectation about the extent to which India can accommodate it on Kashmir.  As always, India wants terrorism to be the central issue and wants Islamabad to stop supporting militancy in Kashmir. Pakistan doesn’t accept it backs terrorism.

Anyways, if the last year’s figures for infiltration and the killings of foreign militants in Kashmir are anything to go by, Pakistan has held back from supporting the local militancy. New Delhi, it seems, is unlikely to reverse the revocation of J&K autonomy. It remains to be seen whether it restores statehood anytime soon. As a result, the nascent re-engagement between the two countries also has been pushed to the backburner. Though there has been some occasional noise about the secret contact between the two neighbours, New Delhi has been tight-lipped about it, so is Pakistan now.

Now, both the countries are putting onus on each other to take the first step towards resuming engagement. Islamabad has made any re-engagement with India conditional to New Delhi reversing the August 5 move or at least providing a roadmap for doing so. New Delhi continues to insist on end to cross-border terrorism before talks begin. And as things, neither country is, in a position, to meet the condition.  It would be interesting to see how the two countries negotiate their respective conditionalities before reaching out to each other.

But as of now it is the evolving situation in Afghanistan that remains the focus. The war’s outcome could profoundly alter the geopolitics of the region and, in turn, the form of India, Pakistan relations.

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