Uh oh, there they go again, just as one feared. Pakistan has opted to employ verbal band aids and ointment to sandpaper India’s abrasions after Pathankot. That’s all it is and nothing more when we read headlines like Pakistan prime minister, Army chief and ISI head have all condemned the attack.
It is too much to expect New Delhi to find grand virtue in the fact that the three of them are on the same page.
Condemnation cuts no ice, it is a cheap commodity and you can buy it by the bushel in the political firmament. And this togetherness is of no direct concern to India and, in itself, utterly pointless.
This was going to be the sticky part when we gave the ultimatum demanding action. Even that possibly orchestrated ‘flame and fury’ from the JeM’s Maulana Masood Azhar indicting the Sharif government for ‘bowing’ to India could well be theatrics on order. Where is Nawaz Sharif bowing to India?
There has to be something more tangible than just agreement that terrorism is a very bad thing.
The next step, if one estimates the direction that Islamabad is taking, is to suggest a meeting of the two national security advisors (NSAs) so that the issue can be discussed and a combined operation mooted. That is a nice way of bringing the currently frozen agenda back to life and yet, giving nothing away.
Now, if this collective will is the first of several steps we should keep the door open just a tad, not much, just a chink to see if some light falls in.
Like, okay, your three prongs on the trident are in a row, now what. Are you going to hit the camps, give India their wish list of terrorists (or at least start the process) and globally accept that this was an operation planned and conceived in Pakistan.
Can Nawaz Sharif say 'sorry'? It is a simple word but without it there is not even a starting point. Without it being on record India gets no starting point.
There is also a concern, and it is not an idle one, that Pakistan’s PR machine will try to move the blame onto India. It is your cop who was corrupt. It is your people who aided the terrorists. It is your forces that were inept.
You guard against it. We can conduct our own investigation and shore up the weak spots but let it not put us on the back foot.
The evidence is stark. There can be no surrender on the demand that Pakistan’s authorities make an admission..
And we have to be very clear that without that acknowledgement mere announcements of intent do not have the traction for India to revert to cordiality. There has to be more, much more. PM Modi should wait till Monday and then exercise his options and not pander. What Pakistan would want is to create the illusion that it is ready to talk and be accommodating but it is India who is being petulant and sulky and not coming to the negotiating trouble.
Seen in isolation, the fact that Nawaz Sharif’s government, the army and the ISI are on the same page is of no value to India. If this is the only offer, New Delhi must throw away the book and write its own script.