The dust has settled over the non event that did not take place — the NSA (National Security Adviser) level talks between India and Pakistan. The talks were a non starter from the beginning. India wanted a one agenda meeting to focus on their main concern — terrorism. They did not want Kashmir on the agenda for domestic reasons that had to do with the hard line radical Hindu support base of the government. The Modi government is like a pyramid with a single decision maker on top and everything flowing in one direction — downwards so the input that would lead to rational considered decisions does not quite reach the decision maker. This is evident from the criticism from within India on the handling of not just the talks but the entire relationship with Pakistan. Diplomacy is obviously taking a back seat.
In fact right from its arrival in the seat of power the Modi government has taken decisions with one objective in mind. Rattle Pakistan. Coerce Pakistan. Undermine Pakistan. Malign the Pakistan military and the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence). Create and exploit sectarian and ethnic divides within Pakistan to undermine its economy. Use Afghanistan as a springboard and carry out false flag operations to promote insurgency and lawlessness. This was evident when the entire Composite Dialogue process that had been painstakingly established was scuttled with one stroke and for the flimsiest of reasons — Pakistan’s contacts and talks with the Hurriyet of Indian Held Kashmir. Something that had become accepted over the years and made no waves — not even ripples. This was followed by a blatantly orchestrated escalation of cease fire violations on the Line of Control where a cease fire had been mutually agreed upon and was in place even though never formalized into a written undertaking. The violence was backed by a planned media campaign to blame Pakistan for everything under the sun.
Pakistan’s initial assessment was that India was playing a domestic oriented game because of the elections in Kashmir and other states and pandering to its hard-line nationalist Hindu backers and would stop drawing new redlines for talks once the elections were over. The understanding at Ufa between the Prime Ministers that led to the scheduling of NSA level talks seemed to bear out this view. The recent violence in India that led to the knee jerk finger pointing at Pakistan did not lead to a cancellation of the NSA talks and this was again seen as a good sign for the future. Not anymore. The NSA level talks have been called off because India did not allow the Hurriyet leadership to have a cup of tea with Pakistan’s visiting NSA in Pakistan’s High Commission in Delhi knowing full well that the talks would be doomed by this decision.
Pakistan now has the full picture. It has proof of the involvement of India’s RAW in the violence in Pakistan and muddying the waters in the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship. It understands the Indian game and the fact that notwithstanding India’s big power dreams and projection as some kind of a dream destination India remains basically Pakistan obsessed. It is shaken by the full implications of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and the civil-military combine that has brought Pakistan’s formidable military and intelligence assets to the front line against the war on terror and urban violence. Pakistan’s media responded with gusto to the Indian media’s rabid outbursts against Pakistan. The world is watching the incidents that indicate the unfolding of venom against Muslims in India. India’s outreach to undermine Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia and UAE has backfired. It is time that Afghanistan and Pakistan compared notes to link the recent upsurge in terrorist acts to India’s ambitions.
If India and Pakistan are to talk to each other, and they must, then diplomacy should take over on both sides. The NSA’s may not be the right choice for the first round of talks. The agenda for the first round should be to decide on the structure of the talks (if Composite Dialogue is not acceptable) and the agenda for the talks. There should be no redlines or preconditions. The media should not be a sounding off place for those trying to make their domestic bones — the diplomats should talk to each other and not to and through the media. The media should be encouraged to be a positive factor for the talks and public opinion. A back channel could be set up with retired diplomats on both sides. Talks will succeed only when the right environment has been created for them. India and Pakistan should not make themselves an arena for western writers and think tanks to make a living by conjuring up doomsday scenarios created by irresponsible leaders.