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January 2, 2018

An attempt at diplomacy

Editorial

 
January 2, 2018

The revelation of a secret meeting between Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Lt Gen (r) Nasser Khan Janjua and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval in Bangkok on December 26, 2017 adds some context to the visit of convicted Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav’s family to Pakistan. Before the Indian government and media turned the Jadhav story into yet another opportunity to go after Pakistan, it was meant as a way to demonstrate goodwill and to kick start any kind of diplomatic engagement. The meeting between the NSAs, it seems, was part of that same process. From the details that are available of the meeting, it doesn’t seem as if there was any kind of diplomatic breakthrough. India continued to accuse Pakistan of allowing militants to cross the Line of Control and of not taking action against the likes of Hafiz Saeed. On its part, Pakistan is said to have spoken of the constant human rights violations in Kashmir and Indian firing across the LoC. But there is no indication that either country is willing to yield an inch. Ties between the two are so poor right now that India is unwilling even to issue visas to pilgrims from Pakistan while we have not responded to an Indian proposal to quickly return minors and elderly people who inadvertently cross the border. On the very first day of the year, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj ruled out the resumption of cricketing ties with Pakistan, pointing to the situation on the LoC as a reason.

This is not in the first time the two countries have tried the Bangkok gambit. In December 2015 too, the NSAs had met in Thailand’s capital. That was quickly followed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Pakistan for the then PM, Nawaz Sharif’s birthday. That, too, proved a false dawn. India under Modi has been determined to demonise Pakistan and isolate it internationally. As much as Nawaz had hoped and tried for a normalisation of ties with India, the extremism of Modi has made that impossible. The brutal crackdown launched by India in Kashmir last year following the execution of Burhan Wani killed off whatever appetite for diplomacy there may have been. India’s continual meddling, as shown by the presence of Jadhav in Balochistan, has also made better relations more difficult. This, however, does not mean we should give up on the idea of peace altogether. Meetings like the ones between the NSAs in Bangkok may not lead to immediate breakthroughs but they can set the stage for further, more productive diplomacy. Peace and better relations with our neighbours should still be our ultimate goal, no matter how distant it seems right now.