India-Pakistan Relations: Successes and Setbacks

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The coming of the Modi government a year ago, ignited a billion hopes of “achhe din”. Not just Modi’s economic policy but also his foreign policy with special regards to Pakistan was under the spotlight, also keeping in mind the relations between BJP and RSS. Ever since the Partition, some form of dialogue with Pakistan has been pursued by various governments which has witnessed ups and downs. There was a positive move when Modi invited the SAARC leaders including the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to witness his investiture ceremony. However what soon followed was a series of positive developments and subsequent setbacks. This development was succeeded by the calling off of a dialogue between the foreign secretaries of the two nations after the Pakistan High Commissioner decided to go ahead with a meeting with the Hurriyat leaders in August 2014. The cancellation of talks was followed by an intensification of firing incidents along the Line of Control (LoC). The relation saw no progress when both the leaders met for the SAARC summit in November 2014.

Months later, when both the countries headed to Ufa, Russia for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, India sought a bilateral meeting with Pakistan. It concluded with a joint statement by both the nations for a proposed NSA meet along with other decisions including promoting religious tourism, releasing of fishermen. This NSA talk scheduled for August saw no day of light with both the countries recognising their own interpretations of the statement issued at Ufa as legitimate. The on-going ceasefire violations and the recent Gurdaspur attack left the office with no other option but to harden its stand and reiterate that the Pakistan policy it followed was not the same as those pursued by the previous governments.  India’s condition of a sole discussion on the issue of terrorism and Pakistan’s willingness to meet the Hurriyat leaders which the Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj referred to as a ‘third party’ in the wake of the Shimla declaration led to a disappointing cancellation of the talk.

The Ufa venue had created international interest and its failure may have implications for both Pakistan and India. Undoubtedly India missed an opportunity to confront Pakistan using the dossiers it prepared and the recently captured terrorist Nawab that would have served as a dark horse. What now remains to be seen is how does cancelling talks and weakening diplomatic ties help India and also if this series of developments and setbacks can be put an end to. Modi’s visit to Pakistan for the SAARC summit in 2016 will be a crucial one in regards to this and to see how Modi is able to portray his Pakistan policy as coherent and a suitable one.

Nandini Sinha 

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