Breaking the Deadlock

INDIA is likely to invite Pakistan National Security Advisor along Moeed Yusuf along with those from China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for a meeting on Afghanistan in New Delhi next month. The invitation has reportedly been extended to Pakistan's NSA, though there is no official confirmation. Pakistan has also not confirmed its participation yet. But should Yusuf visit India it would be the first of a senior Pakistan functionary to India following the withdrawal of Article 370 on August 5, 2019. And such a visit by a Pakistani official would unlikely remain confined to just a discussion of the situation in Afghanistan. The two neighbours are certainly going to make use of the opportunity to hold a bilateral dialogue too and which, under the circumstances, would be a welcome development.

However, as is the case with Indo-Paki ties, while India is mulling a meeting on Afghanistan which also includes Pakistan, the bitterness in their relations lingers. On Tuesday, Pakistan’s navy claimed it “detected and blocked” an Indian military submarine from entering Pakistani territorial waters earlier this week– the third such reported incursion by an Indian submersible vessel since 2016.

But it would be great if somehow the two countries could get back to dialogue and put their relations on an even keel. But this is easier said than done in regards to the two countries. After re-affirmation of the 2003 ceasefire agreement in February, the two neighbours have failed to build on the goodwill. There have been no further measures, nor does it look likely there will be 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. New Delhi, for sure, will not reverse the revocation of J&K autonomy. It remains to be seen whether it restores statehood to J&K anytime soon. As always, India wants the terrorism to be the central issue in any dialogue with Pakistan and the latter doesn’t accept it backs terrorism.

A sustained, meaningful dialogue between the two countries has the potential to lead to a positive outcome. But it looks unlikely that such a dialogue would take place for now and even if it does, it may not be easy to sustain it. In the past many such attempts have been aborted by a major attack in India traced to elements in Pakistan or sometimes due to the rigid negotiating positions of the two countries. It would be thus interesting to see how the two countries negotiate their respective conditionalities before reaching out to each other.

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