It is in the realm of an exhibition tennis match. More sulky in texture than displaying substance. Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit was clearly given the mandate from Islamabad to nobble the Indo-Pak peace talks for now but, at the same time, to lob the ball pointlessly at the relatively low diplomatic level rather than up the stakes.
Three reasons for exercising this dismal option. One, it makes their record book show that the Pathankot incident and the brouhaha over the JIT visit on India’s invitation has been answered. India has been suitably snubbed in Pakistan’s eyes. The angle now being that peace cannot be achieved unless India is sincere in sharing evidence and co-operating. And also in doing so giving itself a delusion that it can now justifiably back off from inviting India over to its side to discuss the same issue. Quote the High Commissioner: "Personally I feel that this whole investigation isn't about reciprocity, but about extending co-operation to get to the bottom on this."
Yeah, sure. India illuminated the bottom weeks ago with a mountain of evidence. And reciprocity is the core of co-operation. These words are synonymous. See how utterly inane the whole effort is.
Two, it allows Pakistan to beat its drums over the arrest of Kulbhushan Yadav and its claim of RAW presence in Baluchistan. That intent has gone a bit awry because they tried to rope Iran into the mix and got their wrist slapped. But this issue will be dragged out again and again even if they cannot back their accusations.
Three, by ordering Basit to make the announcement the door is left open for Foreign Minister level talks and tea for two summits between Sharif and Modi. Ever since the Shimla agreement of 1971 these abortive sorties have been catalogued into an endless listing and this is just another ego bruised grandstand to hold up play.
It is sheer posturing at present because the flaws are glaring.
The JIT visit was a courtesy and the five days the team spent in India were more to find fault than admit culpability. They did not wish to accept the evidence.
Having announced Jadhav’s ‘spy’ career Pakistan made public his capture weeks after they had detained him. Yet, he was denied consular access. Clearly, the ISI wants to use him as a bargaining chip and balance it out with its support for the mastermind of the Pathankot attack Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar and shackle India’s call to the UN to label him a terrorist.
Does all this mincing about mean much? Not really, because these stalling tactics are largely to deflect from the increasing terrorism inside Pakistan and give the public the impression that Pakistan is standing up to Big Brother.
After all, if India could cancel the talks after the air base was attacked it is their turn to do the same.
There is a difference. India had good reason. Pakistan has none. And the best action from New Delhi would be to say, okay fine, no talks, suits us… and make no overtures.
Because overtures at this moment would be weakness and they have no script in Islamabad for stony silence.
India also has to now learn not to be Pavlovian in its responses to Pakistan but to move past it… as in cricket so in politics.