Days after Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif indicated that the country is ready for a dialogue with India without pre-conditions for sustainable peace, New Delhi still has to reply to the PM’s statement.
While the media widely reported Sharif’s statements, experts and foreign policy analysts sitting in New Delhi see no ray of hope in Pakistan prime minister’s statement. Speaking with Livemint, former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, “This (Sharif’s statement) is nothing new. They have said this all the time. Their point is that India should talk unconditionally and any attempt by India to hold them to any agreements that they have been party to, is seen as a condition.”
Sharif had indicated that Pakistan is ready for a dialogue with India without pre-conditions for sustainable peace, according to Pakistani TV channel Geo News on Saturday. The report said that Sharif indicated this during a meeting with his British counterpart David Cameron on the sidelines of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Valletta on Friday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not attending the CHOGM, however, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj is representing India at the summit in Malta.
The channel reported that Sharif said Pakistan intends to maintain friendly relations with all its neighbours, including India and Afghanistan. However, according to this report in Livemint, which quoted a person familiar with the development, New Delhi still has not released any statement after the Geo News report. However, the officer, who was not named in the report, said that Sharif’s statement could also mean that the Pakistani Prime Minister wanted India to drop what Pakistan viewed as conditions for dialogue.
Ties have been strained between India and Pakistan over border firing and a series of ceasefire violations. Talks between national security advisers of the two countries were cancelled in August because of a dispute over the agenda. India wanted to discuss terror attacks and Pakistan insisted on raising Kashmir. Like the arguments made by senior editor of Firstpost Karan Pradhan in this article, Pakistan military and civilian government in past have worked in sync to derail peace talks. Be it the 10 July Ufa meeting of Sharif and Modi, right after which voices in Pakistan and the Valley decried the fact that Jammu and Kashmir was not mentioned in the joint statement or the September 2014 incident when the Pakistan high commissioner, Abdul Basit, decided to meet with the Kashmiri separatists — there have been enough instances where Pakistan has very well gone ahead and derailed chances of any dialogue.
The national security advisors (NSA) were to hold talks on the subject of terrorism while the border guards’ chiefs and the military officers were to discuss maintenance of peace along the border as per a 2003 accord. However, Pakistan’s attempts to hold a meeting with Kashmiri separatists ahead of the NSAs’ dialogue in New Delhi in August resulted in India strongly opposing the move and the talks ultimately being called off.
In his article, Pradhan asks (and answers) if Pakistan is not interested in the dialogue, why don’t they go ahead and cancel it anyway.
“That doesn’t fit into the Pakistani strategy of denial, misdirection and self-victimisation. By letting New Delhi cancel talks, Islamabad is able to take the perceived moral high ground and tell the world (especially Kashmiris) that India is not interested in the peace process.”
To top all this, analysts and foreign policy experts seem to echo the emotion. Sibal, speaking to Livemint said, “What Pakistan means is that they should be given a free hand. It is Pakistan that is laying conditions and their primary condition is that they should be allowed to raise any subject, any issue in the face of very clear Indian objections,” Sibal said. “I am not sure this (Sharif’s stateemnt) is the breakthrough (in the logjam) we are looking for.”
With inputs from agencies