The only thing the recent foreign secretary interaction was supposed to achieve, considering the background, was breaking the ice. And, in hindsight, it must have taken more than Obama’s push to get Modi to rollback the freeze on talks. The Kashmir election changed things too. The defeat – despite Modi’s personal hectic efforts – and especially tough negotiations with PDP, brought BJP back to Earth. Now, the understanding seems gaining currency that the extreme position adopted following the Pakistani ambassador’s meeting with Hurriyet did not achieve any purpose. Pakistan remained committed to ‘core issues’, and the army made it amply clear that any further LoC and Working Boundary adventures would be paid back with authority.
If anything, Indian antics indirectly helped Pakistan’s position internationally. Why the fuss over Hurriyet, especially since Delhi has had no such problems in the past, even under BJP? And since Islamabad has finally done the right thing with Zarb-e-Azb, why not wait to see if it comes full circle with ‘terrorists of all hues and colours’ rather than ignite the border and freeze negotiations? Little surprise, then, that Washington has also put its weight behind talks. Now Delhi will be seen blinking first, and core issues, obviously, will have to be discussed sooner or later.
In these terms, at least, the visit can be dubbed a success. Both sides realise, however begrudgingly, that the solution eventually lies in the other listening to its grievances; which, of course, would require very serious reciprocity. Both must now begin to come to terms with the reality that the maximalist solution might not just be improbable, but also unfeasible. Much has changed about Pakistan, India and Kashmir since Partition, and political animosity of a bygone era must no longer be allowed to hold back economic linkages, which are essential if people’s lives are to improve. If Secretary Jaishankar took such a message back to Delhi, and the Modi government decided to carry the process forward – by inviting Pakistan’s FS – before it loses momentum, things might slowly move forward after all.