Cooling-off phase? Nothing to suggest Pak decided to play ball with India

This appears to be a cooling off phase in India-Pakistan relations, perennially marked by blow-hot-blow-cold diplomacy. First, consider the following and then try to decode the recent statements, remarks, gestures and actions between South Asia’s bickering nations.

 Cooling-off phase? Nothing to suggest Pak decided to play ball with India


Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi is celebrating Pakistan National Day on Monday and the Indian government nominated Minister of State for External Affairs and former army chief Gen VK Singh to represent India at the event. This, despite the fact that Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and six other Kashmiri separatist leaders attended the event at the invitation of Pakistan’s high commissioner Abdul Basit.

Monday’s dinner was just symbolic as Basit had met with Kashmiri separatist leaders on Sunday night itself and briefed them on the talks held recently between the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan.

Another separatist Masarat Alam, the recently released alleged main organiser of the massive protests in 2010 that saw Kashmiris clashing for months with Indian security forces, too, was invited by Basit. However, Alam played down the invite and also ruled out his attending the event remarking thus in Kashmir: "I am not well so I will not attend... these invites come to us every year."

Obviously Alam has been 'managed' by India without making a song and dance about it. But the significant thing is that Pakistan has not gone ballistic over it.

On Saturday, Pakistan released 57 Indian fishing boats which it had been holding for almost a year 'as a goodwill gesture' following Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar’s Pakistan visit earlier this month. More significantly, Pakistan sent out positive vibes when Pakistan Maritime Security Agency extended full support to Indians in making the boats seaworthy after minor repairs.

On Monday, Basit was all sugar and honey as he sought to send more positive vibes to India at his press conference in New Delhi with the following remarks: “The need of the hour is that India and Pakistan engage in a peaceful bilateral dialogue to resolve issues… Pakistan has been serious and sincere about resolving issues with India through peaceful dialogue."

Basit also said that as far as he understood, India had no objection to Hurriyat leaders being invited on Pakistani National Day. "I don't think the Indian government has objected (to the invite)... I suggest to media friends not to make an issue out of a non-issue," he went on record as saying.

In the normal circumstances the Narendra Modi government would have blasted the Pakistani envoy for such a remark. But nothing of the sort happened. Instead, Ministry of External Affairs’ spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin chose to ignore Basit’s spin on Hurriyat and reiterated India’s position that there was no place for third party in resolving India-Pakistan dispute.

This is what Akbaruddin said: "The Government of India prefers to speak for itself. Having repeated it on so many occasions there should be no scope for misunderstanding or misrepresenting India's position on the role of the so called Hurriyat. Let me reiterate there are only two parties and there is no place for a third party in resolution of India-Pakistan issues. The only way forward to proceed on all outstanding issues is a peaceful bilateral dialogue within the framework of Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration."

What is happening? Are the traditional nuclear-armed rivals finally cosying up to each other for something bigger? Is Pakistan trying to prepare a positive climate for a successful Saarc summit to be hosted by Pakistan next year?

The fact is that not much should be read in the above-mentioned positive notes struck by the two sides.

India-Pakistan relations have traditionally been marked by “one step forward, two steps backward” kind of behaviour. There is nothing to suggest that Pakistan has decided to play ball with India and put an end to Rawalpindi’s systemic enmity against New Delhi. Pakistan Army’s Generals, based in Rawalpindi, are not known to have conveyed to Islamabad a new and positive India policy of Pakistan.

The real test of India-Pakistan relations would come in the coming weeks as summer will be in full bloom and mountain passes in Jammu and Kashmir would be opening up. Just a few days ago, there have been two back-to-back terror attacks in J&K within the space of 24 hours.

Moreover, Pakistan doesn’t really have to start putting up good behaviour from now on for Saarc summit in Islamabad next year the dates of which have not even been announced yet.

At best, the present cooling off period between India and Pakistan is just a passing cloud. Don’t rule out the harsh summer sun beating down India-Pakistan ties once again. This is how India-Pakistan relations have been for last over 67 years.

- The writer, Firstpost Consulting Editor, is the author of an investigative book entitled “Beyond the Tigers: Tracking Rajiv Gandhi’s Assassination” and tweets @Kishkindha.

Updated Date: Mar 24, 2015 07:30:46 IST