The oft-repeated charge that Prime Minister Narendra Modi likes nothing better than a foreign jaunt, which, alas, he does not like sharing with an accompanying media contingent, may not be heard in TV discussions over the coming week. This isn’t because the antipathy of the content providers has diminished in any meaningful way, or that the obsessive over-dissection of Lalit Modi and the Vyapam scam has contributed to a bout of over-exhaustion of the desi Jabberwocky.
When it comes to Pakistan and anything to do with India-Pakistan bilateral relations, a sense of earnest sincerity-often missing when it comes to other departments of statecraft-is likely to subsume the shrill frivolity that is dished out daily to the gullible. Somehow the packaging of news as entertainment doesn’t extend to Pakistan, although this mock seriousness doesn’t extend to the ex-military masochists from the other side who have supplemented their pensions with a lucrative trade in abusive exchanges.
Since the silly belief that all foreign policy equals Pakistan (and, by extension, China and the US) has a strong following among both the ultra-nationalists and those who can’t discard their Mughal nostalgia, the India-Pakistan joint statement from Ufa is certain to be scrutinised very closely. For those of whom the love of Lahore is matched by the hatred of the vegetarian Modi, the significance of last Friday’s meeting and decision to resume security-related interactions constitutes a classic rollback. For the gung-ho Bomb-Islamabad brigade, Modi has not fully gauged the extent of Pakistani perfidy-but he will learn soon enough. And finally, there is deep disappointment in the conflict-resolution industry that the K-word isn’t mentioned in the joint statement. How will Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sell this omission to the very faithful?
How the Pakistani Prime Minister explains this omission and the common resolve to fight terror in all its forms to those who till only the other day were threatening to unleash nuclear weapons on India will be interesting to observe. However, from the Indian perspective this can hardly be a matter of concern. What seems equally interesting is that the joint statement-which, admittedly, is never the full story-also omits any reference to the so-called composite dialogue and the associated hierarchy of concerns that accompanies its mere mention.
What this implies is simple: India hasn’t let down its guard and is merely taking a few elementary steps to ensure that the tensions along the border are contained and doesn’t cross a threshold.
I am almost certain that domestic compulsions will not allow the Pakistani Government to inject the investigations and judicial process surrounding the Mumbai attacks of 2008 with a booster dose of purposefulness. But it is doubtful whether the Indian Government believes otherwise. It is a grim reality that the leaders of the LeT, including those responsible for remote-controlling the Mumbai attacks, possess a certain political clout within Pakistan and also enjoy close proximity to the more shadowy institutions of the State. This reality won’t change, regardless of any commitment by Sharif to ensure justice. For India to believe that the Pakistani establishment has had a change of heart and is overwhelmed by the flame from candles at Wagah would be simply ridiculous.
As far as Delhi is concerned, the wait-and-watch policy towards Pakistan is certain to endure. Modi may indeed make the journey to the SAARC summit in Islamabad next year but this by itself means nothing. At present, Pakistan is caught in a profound existential dilemma over the very basis of its nationhood. There are just too many conflicting pressures on the State, ranging from the wildly sectarian to the moderately liberal, to allow the proverbial “idea of Pakistan” to acquire any coherent shape or meaning. Many of these pressures are in turn linked to events outside Pakistan’s national boundaries.
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