Beyond the optimistic reassurances of ‘vision documents’ and ‘joint statements’, and multiple photo-ops for the wide eyed imagination of world peace, what have talks with Pakistan ever achieved?
‘Historic’ agreements as history remembers them have either come after India has defeated Pakistan in military engagements or are immediately followed by conflict, ceasefire violations, even terror. The status quo has remained the same, as Kashmir continues to be the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy with regards to India. This is the root of why there has been no major headway in economic and cultural ties, even as it is evident how both sides can significantly benefit from them.
It was no surprise that National Security Advisor level talks were cancelled recently. In fact, in the newsroom we were wondering which side will cancel the dialogue first. Pakistan eventually blinked first
saying it wanted to discuss Kashmir, even though the Ufa agreement had placed terror on the agenda. Pakistan even protested against India’s objection to engage separatist leaders as stakeholders in the
bilateral dialogue. India stuck to its guns, upholding the precedent set in 2014 when the foreign secretary level talks were cancelled after the Pakistan High Commissioner met separatist leaders in Delhi.
This recently established redline favours India’s position. As compared to previous administrations, the Centre is actively trying to counter Pakistan’s attempts to legitimise the position of the Hurriyat as stakeholders in the bilateral dialogue – establishing that Kashmir can only be discussed by the elected governments of both sides.
Pakistan’s engagement with the Hurriyat is a prestige issue by which they attempt to keep the Kashmir case alive. The media tends to do Pakistan a favour by going crazy over engagements with a thinning herd of separatists, even though we keep telling ourselves that they do not represent the people of Kashmir, and don’t even have the ability to win a street corner election.
India’s biggest victory against Pakistan has been the maintenance of democracy in Jammu and Kashmir, bringing the electorate in line with the national political mainstream. Every successful election time and
again is a victory against the political narrative of Pakistan, weakening its case of a ‘right’ over the region. The Hurriyat is Pakistan’s last bastion of an already dwindling support base in the valley, which sustains itself on the ‘oxygen’ of publicity. The Modi government’s aim is to corner them and de-legitimise their position in the valley both politically and diplomatically. After sidelining separatists in the election arena, the Modi government is now actively establishing that diplomatic engagement between Pakistan and the Hurriyat, is a challenge to India’s sovereignty, which can derail any serious bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan.
On the Kashmir issue, Pakistan is isolated in the international arena and cannot develop pressure on India through diplomatic levers. With terror strikes and ceasefire violations continuing despite the
‘peaceful intentions’ of Pakistan, the Modi government needs to maintain a tough stance, distance itself from the last 10 years of ‘candy floss diplomacy’ to reset the rules of engagement on India’s