- PM, Foreign Minister reply politely
Re-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his new Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar have both replied with honeyed words and anodyne phrases to letters from their Pakistani counterparts, Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Mr Khan congratulating Mr Modi on his re-election, Mr Qureshi Mr Jaishankar on his selection as Foreign Minister. Both echoed the sentiments of the letters of congratulations, and said that peace and security was the desire of all for the region. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs was careful to say that neither letter contained any offer of talks, and the letters just were just routine replies to equally routine messages. However, such is the state of relations between the two countries, that even these caused a little flutter within Pakistani ruling circles.
This is well-founded, but only if Prime Minister Imran Khan’s prediction that the BJP will be easier to deal with if it won, is accepted. However, Mr Khan should be disabused of the notion, if indeed he holds it, that talks will now be easy. There is no sign that India wishes to engage seriously, and will change its attitude from trying to make sure that talks are merely about talks. The BJP government campaigned on an anti-Pakistan platform, and pledged itself to change the demography of Kashmir. In the little time that has elapsed since its re-election, it has shown its biases have not changed. Apart from its conviction, being anti-Pakistan seems to appeal to the Indian electorate. BJP President Amit Shah’s angry comment on Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s nomination procession in Kerala, that one couldn’t tell if the procession was in India or Pakistan, is typical. It is worrying that Shah is the new Home Minister, and thus responsible for operating the occupying forces in Kashmir. To expect it to talk would be foolhardy, and to engage without proper preparation is even more so.
And though Mr Khan has shown his anxiety to have talks, there is still no sign that he is putting in the preparatory work necessary, which involves getting briefings from experts, preparing talking points and getting ready for the other side’s points. Worse than no talks would be bad talks. And bad talks are what he will have if he does not put in the necessary preparation.