Writing early morning with all kinds of trend-stories carried by Indian media with newspapers hinting at breakdown before the talks get underway. The fact is the Modi regime will ensure the Sartaj Aziz-Ajit Doval talks will happen tomorrow — how the conversation ends and with what results is more difficult to predict considering there’s a basic disagreement even about what was agreed upon at Ufa by way of an agenda for the NSAs’meet — because the Indian PM has invested far too much in initiating a thaw as building block for his ambitious “Look West, Act West” policy. He apparently understands more than most people that while Pakistan is not indispensable to gaining access to Central Asia with Iranian port of Chahbahar in sight, it will help to bring Pakistan into the mix for two important reasons: (1) to address the sentiment of the Obama Admin that India’s not doing enough to normalise relations with Pakistan, thus keeping the security situation in the subcontinent on the boil, and (2) moderate to the extent possible the effects of a too close China-Pakistan nexus by offering the Nawaz Sharif govt an Indian channel for trade and commerce as path for economic prosperity.
I am also not convinced General Raheel Sharif and the Pakistan Army is the problem. The Pak COAS has time and again talked of the greater threat to his country from the extremist Islamic quarter and the Taliban in its two avatars — Afghan and Pakistani, not to mention the looming possibility of the dreaded IS putting down roots, and the need to concentrate Pak military resources in defeating this menace. For this. Raheel needs the eastern border with India to be quiet. Rather, I think it is elements in the Nawaz Sharif coterie who may be advising against de-prioritising the Kashmir issue, for fear of its domestic fallout.
Instead of making such big noise about Aziz meeting the Hurriyat leaders, wouldn’t it have been easier to simply put them under house arrest as soon as they landed in Delhi, and release them as soon as the Pakistani departed? There may be a negative effect but the onus would be on Pakistan to cancel the talks or sabotage them. Very different thing to happen than for GOI to gather opprobrium for ditching the talks.