The big news is not the cancellation of Sartaz Aziz-Ajit Doval – National Security Advisors level talks between Pakistan and India – it is perhaps a little understood fact that for the first time ever, Islamabad has canceled Talks with New Delhi. The so called ‘talks’ always suited Pakistan obviously and whenever talks used to be cancelled, it used to be always India.
No sooner the Pakistan announcement was made that Sartaz Aziz would not accept the hospitality of his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, who had a few "surprises" for the guest; BJP reacted with sharp tongues saying it confirmed Pakistan is not serious on issue of terrorism. For its part, Pakistan said they "have come to the conclusion that the NSA talks would not serve any purpose if conducted on the basis of the two conditions laid down by the minister". They were responding to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s categorical assertion, no third party (that is the Hurriyat) should be involved in the talks and only terror and no Kashmir will be on the agenda.
Pakistan’s national security adviser, Sartaj Aziz, had also rejected India’s demands, saying it could not control the guest list for the Sunday evening reception that he said would “enable me to meet a cross section of Indian political and business leaders”. The reference was Hurriyat leaders of Kashmir.
So where do land from these: PM Narendra Modi's government appears to have recognised that a quest for durable peace with Pakistan is a “non-starter”, reported BBC. It is for the second time in a year Pakistan’s ‘obnoxious nexus’ with separatist Kashmiri leaders – from Indian perspective – has derailed the talks.
An ambitious man keen to deliver, Modi is also known as a pragmatist who, according to BBC again, knows his agenda of enhancing regional co-operation in South Asia will remain unfulfilled “without a thaw in India-Pakistan tensions”.
|Kashmir: Also a battlefield for two Sharifs?|
So the hint was he was keen for the talks and would go extra-mile and therefore amid bitter criticism by opposition Congress and others, he held his breadth till last moment since Gurdaspur attack and did not cancel the talks. That way, he scores a minor victory that it is Islamabad which has cancelled the talks for the firm stand he took that Kashmiri separatists could not meet Pakistan’s NSA.
“Hurriyat are important for Pakistan only as a proxy. New Delhi objected to the Pakistani move to have meetings with Hurriyat leaders only to block the way for Pakistan to hanker after Kashmir even at the drop of a hat,” says a longtime Pakistan watcher and incidentally he is neither a product of hawkish Hindutva nor a Indian military strategist. “Hurriyat is the inducement – the bait – which Modi refused to eat,” says another expert endorsing the view that though a momentary set back, Prime Minister Modi’s hawkish stance on separatists would at least stump his detractors.
Even in Pakistan, intellectuals feel the Hurriyat issue was dragged little too far.
“The Indian reaction is predictably knee-jerk,” said an editorial in Pakistani newspaper, ‘The Express Tribune’. But it advocated the need to keep the heads ‘cool’ and said, “….given the importance and sensitivity of these talks, it may be wise on this occasion to revisit our (Pakistani) stance on the matter (read Kashmir issue)”.
|columnist Irfan Hussain|
“The reality is that nobody supports our claims over Kashmir, and even Kashmiris do not want to join Pakistan. Indeed, those fighting there are doing so for independence. And yet our diplomats continue banging the drum for archaic UN resolutions calling for a referendum that limits the choices for Kashmiris to merge with either India or Pakistan,” wrote popular Pakistani columnist Irfan Hussain rather acidly in ‘Dawn’ newspaper.
Many in Pakistan, fortunately, are speaking out these days. “It’s time to emerge from the old world,” ran a newspaper commentary with the regret the thinking of Pakistani leadership- both military and civilians – that has been shaped by the Kashmir conflict seen through the old “narrow prism”.
So, does it suggest Nawaz Sharif has lost a major initiative? Probably yes as he has for the time being decided to go by the wise sentiments of his military generals and the ISI.
How would Modi pursue his game henceforth? In the previous blog – amid all hints that NSA talks would not happen – this blogger mooted that PM Modi should spell out his Pakistan policy. But insiders suggest, he already has one.
Now that Islamabad has refused to join the combat against terror, Modi regime would push the ‘isolate Pakistan’ more vigorously. It’s a tough assignment Modi has given to himself despite the bravado he made at Dubai speech.
But some of the timings suit this ‘man of destiny- called Narendra Modi’. Pakistan has given him an opening when it refused to enter the Yemen conflict on the side of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. India also got an opportunity in pursuing an ‘alternate path’ by talking to Iran about expanding and modernising its Persian Gulf port of Chabahar, close to the Pakistani border. Tehran believes Pakistan’s Shias are being persecuted, and Islamabad is in the Saudi camp in the rivalry between the kingdom and Iran. “This increases the chances of closer ties between Delhi and Tehran,” right sums up Irfan Hussain.
‘Hanging fire’ issue now is = how would Modi checkmate China’s interest in Pakistan?
The allegation from Pakistan is Modi wants to disrupt the internal balance of Pakistan to give China an excuse to desist from investing in Pakistan. This, if true, would certainly make Nawaz Sharif’s life more miserable.
But these do not auger well in diplomacy when both the stake holders have been in wars in the past and are now nuclear powers. “Cross-border violence has surged in recent months, raising new fears that the attacks could spiral out of control and set off another war….,” cautioned an edit in New York Times. It further said, and here Team Modi should take note of, “India, which is considerably stronger and more successful than Pakistan, has the most to lose if another war erupts”. The jingoism has no place in today’s world and as they say, “If ever there was a time to display maturity, it is now”.