Indo-Pak Talks and the Cheshire Cat

The Economic Times - - Breaking Ideas -

In­dia’s talks with Pak­istan are like the Cheshire Cat, in their evanes­cence. The Cat in Alice’s Won­der­land had a habit of van­ish­ing in anatom­i­cal in­stal­ments. Once, af­ter it had re­duced it­self to a grin­ning face, it oc­ca­sioned a heated, if log­i­cal, ex­change be­tween the King and Queen of Hearts, on the one hand, and the ex­e­cu­tioner, on the other, on whether it was pos­si­ble to be­head a head that is not at­tached to a body. The Pak­istan High Com­mis­sioner’s state­ment that Indo-Pak peace talks stand sus­pended raises a sim­i­lar ques­tion: can you sus­pend talks that have not got go­ing in the first place? The Modi gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to talks with Pak­istan has been that of a pen­du­lum, swing­ing from one ex­treme to the other, and back again. Warm em­brace at the swear­ing in, called off talks over the Pak en­voy’s meet­ing with Kash­miri sep­a­ratists, warm em­brace af­ter sud­den stopover at La­hore, fol­lowed up from the Pak end with a sneak ter­ror at­tack on the Pathankot air force base, un­prece­dented ac­com­mo­da­tion of a Pak re­quest to send their in­ves­ti­ga­tion team to Pathankot, only to see the warmth of this im­plicit ad­mis­sion of the Pak state’s non-in­volve­ment in the ter­ror strike frozen over by the Pak ‘dis­cov­ery’ of an al­leged In­dian spy in Balochis­tan. If you find such con­duct of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions baf­fling, please note that a cat’s tail, too, swings from one end to the other.

Talks with Pak­istan get­ting sus­pended is not a dis­as­ter. In­dia should con­tinue to be pre­pared to en­gage all sec­tions of the Pak state and so­ci­ety that are will­ing to be en­gaged but with the full aware­ness that it would not mark any devel­op­ment in a story that pro­gresses swiftly to an end­ing in which peo­ple live hap­pily to­gether ever af­ter. If the Cheshire cat van­ishes, trust it to reap­pear.

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