Good on India. Good on Modi. He has moved the envelope to the edge of the table not so much by telling Pakistan to show the intent but by placing on it a deadline of 72 hours.
Time bound deadlines are something India has seldom given and when there has been only a stern warning no one in Islamabad has taken it very seriously.
The post Pathankot mood on the Indian side is a lot different than the norm and this must have caught Nawaz Sharif on the backfoot.
He was expecting a lot of foot stamping and petulant indignation from New Delhi all of which he could handle but a 72 hour ultimatum is a different deal. This must be irksome to Islamabad because it has the element of a decisive threat and they have not had that in recent years.
For Mr Modi, smarting from the embarrassment of this assault occurring so soon after his manufactured spontaneous stopover, the rock has been crossed with tangible gravel in the gut. The hard place is keeping the takes high. The Foreign Secretaries meet scheduled for Jan 15 between between Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry cannot be the sum total of the threat.
Nor should India give much credence to the offer (which will come) of the National Security Advisors of both countries meeting first. That would leave India holding the bag because a postponement of the FS talks is mere bagatelle for Sharif and if it is delayed and that gets India off his back he will go back home laughing. It is of no consequence. Also, in the Pakistan mindset, India is not hawkish and the top brass there have always believed they can fling bridges over troubled waters, appeasing India being easy peasy.
Having put the deadline at 72 hours the deal now is how India assesses the quantity and quality of the Pakistan response in these three days. This is vital.
Pakistan will be hard put surrender space as in handing over any of the top twenty terrorists that India wants. They may go underground and be told to shut up and lie low but it is unlikely they will be handed over. Don’t expect individuals like LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi to be docilely handed over.
Be sure that Pakistan will pooh pooh the evidence India has sent. They will seek refuge in the stand that if they were complicit in the attack then whether the ISI or otherwise, they would have sanitised the equipment and the uniforms not sewn ‘Made in Pakistan’ labels.
India is not interested in semantics. The die has been cast, now it’s their turn.
By that token Pakistan’s best bet is to pretend this is a renegade outfit. Some garden variety bunch of twits who ran off on their own.
In the next few days New Delhi has to be very careful not to be sideswiped by the ‘Salwinder Singh’ card which Pakistan proxies will wave to deflect responsibility...don’t blame us, your own people (ergo ,your cops) were involved.
Pakistan has a lot of practice with delay and obfuscation.
We have to be aware of that and ensure that having offered the deadline expiring Sunday we have a Plan B.
And Plan B better have hi octane powder. Because at this moment the odds favour Pakistan’s savvy PM in conference saying, “Okay, we have them angry, how do we navigate this mess without handing over anything of significance.’
If you were a fly on the wall, you’d also hear the his advisors saying it is time to stall, drag our feet and make promises we don’t really have to keep.
That is the problem with deadlines...you have to back them and up the stakes.
Otherwise the next time you don’t get taken seriously. If Nawaz Sharif calls our bluff and the 73rd hour is upon us with nothing significant having occurred and we do not raise the ante immediately we will be up the creek without a paddle.
We cannot afford that.
Proud to be Indian this evening but concerned how we can back a 72 hour ultimatum.
Our best bet: No talks unless you mean business on terrorism. If you have to recall your ambassador. do it. Literally, stick to your guns.