Abortive drama of high level talks between India, Pakistan

The ever continuing high drama talks between India and Pakistan that fail to eventuate are nothing more than a PR exercise prolonging the issues between the two countries.

Abortive drama of high level talks between India, Pakistan

Mohammad Talukder – Bangladesh

At the last minute Pakistan finally called off the much hyped National Security Adviser-level talks with India in New Delhi, scheduled to be held on August 23 and 24. National Security Advisor (NSA) level officers of both the countries were supposed to meet and discuss the issued related to terrorism and make effort to resolve them.

The NSA-level talks were first mooted in the joint press statement of the two foreign secretaries when the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers had met in the beautiful city of Ufa in Russia at the sideline of a summit. It was agreed upon between the two prime ministers that the issues connected to the terrorism in this region would be the soul agenda for this talk.

It is not very difficult to guess about what might have transpired between the Ufa meeting and the talk time in the last week of August. After returning to the home turf, Prime Minister Sharif had to face a lot of pressure and criticism for being “soft” with India. Pakistan’s opposition parties and country’s powerful military was not happy with this agreed-upon agenda for the talks and was adamant on including the Kashmir issue in it.

Pakistan PM’s Advisor for National Security and foreign policy, Sartaj Aziz gave a statement in media just before few days of scheduled talk . While referring to the joint communiqué issued at Ufa, he said “We were clear that if we say all outstanding issues then Kashmir is included... Ask anyone sitting here what is the biggest outstanding issue between the two countries, everybody will say Kashmir.”

It was clear that India would proscribe separatist leaders from Indian administered Kashmir to meet Sartaj Aziz, and adhere to discuss about terrorism and terrorism alone against Pakistan’s wishes for a broader agenda that included a territorial dispute over Kashmir. Aziz gave literally a bolt from the blue statement to the media, which raised many eyebrows in the international diplomatic circles.

He said, “Modi's India acts as if they are a regional superpower, but we are also a nuclear-armed country and we know how to defend ourselves.” Then, the United States had to caution Pakistan that brandishing its nuclear status in the wake of the cancellation of talks with India would not help reduce tensions between the two countries.

One year ago, the Modi administration had drawn what critics like Mani Shankar Ayer called “a fresh red line.” They had cancelled foreign secretary level talks because Pakistan’s high commissioner in New Delhi met with separatist leaders from the Indian administered Kashmir. Pakistani officials had been regularly meeting with these leaders for more than 15 years.

Why does this farcical drama of peace talks happen again and again when both sides of the border know for sure that it is futile and meaningless? It will be instructive to find an answer of this question.

Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, called the meeting a “spectacle. “This is a government that has shown a tremendous proclivity to just orchestrating events—and Ufa was an event,” he said.

Obviously, it had got to fail at the time when both sides have been brandishing swords at each other for years and cross border hostility is at its peak. Over the years, the pace of intensity of skirmishes at India-Pakistan borders have seen a manifold increase and both sides are just hurling the gauntlets at each other without thinking about the consequences. In such an atmosphere, how can any sensible talk on such a sensitive issue of terrorism be possible?

Even though the NSA meeting is off, and despite the blame game, both sides have left the door open for future negotiations. The Director General of Border Security Forces of India and Director General Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) held three-day DG-level border dialogue in New Delhi just weeks after parleys between the NSAs of the two countries was called off.

As such, so far as the NSA-level talk is considered, it was destined to fail from the very beginning. It was basically a public relation (PR) exercise. In this respect, first time, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has got a real match in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The chanced Ufa meeting between the two prime ministers just provided a convenient stage.

Modi has already internationally established his great credential for his skillful PR and event management. Both turned an otherwise dull and lackluster Ufa meeting into a high voltage drama through the “pigeon of NSA-level talks”, which came out of nowhere from their magic box. They were not bothered about its result.

No efforts were made to create a conducive atmosphere for a talk on such a serious issue. No home work or prior preparation has been done to set the stage for such a high-level talk.

Last Mod: 14 Eylül 2015, 10:09
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