Cynical approach

Cynical approach

In international diplomacy, it is good to meet and talk. To sustain it as an uninterrupted process is better. It is best if the process results in concrete positive outcomes. In India-Pakistan relations, however, the logic works very differently. Islamabad and New Delhi often think it is good for each of them not to meet or talk, probably better not to get stuck in any firm institutional arrangement for the purpose, and best to avoid producing any breakthrough towards resolving many contentious bilateral issues. In a way, bilateral meets/talks have also become war by other means. So, when this type of war reaches a point of breakdown, they call off the process/cycle. It happened in 1994, 1998, 1999, 2001 and then again in 2008 in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
On Thursday, foreign secretaries of the two countries ended the last 15 months’ frosty phase. But only in a formal sense. Both New Delhi and Islamabad had done enough homework ahead of the meeting and prepared the ground to guarantee that it would be just another instance of war by other means. How else does one explain the fact that Pakistan’s foreign secretary Salman Bashir had come armed with that core issue of Kashmir to be placed on the talks’ table? Or, for that matter, could India have not avoided handing over three new dossiers on the involvement of Pakistani nationals in the 26/11 attacks? It could have been handed over some time ahead of this meeting or later. It is well-known that these are divisive issues that have hardly helped the two to reduce the so-called ‘trust deficit’ between them. Aren’t there non-core issues of dispute on which the two can work together to initiate a process of trust-building?

The fact is there is as yet no sincere and honest acceptance of the merit in adopting a periphery-to-core approach to resolving the long-festering issues that stand in the way of building normal ties. Indeed, it is doubtful if both the sides share the objective of establishing normal and peaceful ties. Therefore, as in the past, the two sides will keep meeting and talking from time to time as and when they think it is good to do so or when goaded by the others, as a matter of mere diplomatic tactic. Will the two countries ever want to get out of this vicious pattern?

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