By Ifrah Waqar
Mar 11, 2015
Indian Foreign Secretary, S. Jaishankar, as a part of his South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries’ tour, visited Pakistan last week. He started his journey from New Delhi to Bhutan, then went to Dhaka, then Islamabad, which was then followed by Kabul. S. Jaishankar, who is the son of one of India’s leading strategic analysts, the late K. Subrimanyan, was also a part of the Indian team which negotiated the landmark Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. This was his first tour of the SAARC countries after he took office in January 2015.
The visit of the Indian Foreign Secretary was portrayed way too ambitiously in the Pakistani media. It would be recalled that India had called off the scheduled bilateral secretary-level talks with Pakistan in August last year, citing Pakistan alleged involvement in India’s internal matters when Pakistani High Commissioner in India met with the Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders.
The media frenzy which was witnessed as Indian’s Foreign Secretary reached Pakistan was not new. But, this media hoopla seemed a bit far-fetched as some portions of the media even termed it as a drastic turnaround insofar as relations between Pakistan and India are concerned.
It should not be forgotten that India has not made any exception for Pakistan; this visit was part of Jaishankar’s SAARC tour. Some part of Pakistan’s current government tried to depict this visit as a part of its successful foreign policy in being able to engage the country hostile neighbour, India, but, according to some observers, it was nothing more than another photo-shoot opportunity.
Pakistan and India have not yet resumed composite dialogue. Even the dialogue process which has taken place in the past has not been able to reap any long-lasting results. Furthermore, it should be remembered that the SAARC Charter clearly states that bilateral and contentious issues shall be excluded from the deliberations.
The Indian Foreign Secretary’s visit may be seen as a positive development for both Pakistan and India as the two countries have agreed to talks in future, but making a mountain out of a molehill is uncalled for. There are some serious questions which the policy makers in Pakistan need to ask themselves before they rejoice over the Indian Foreign Secretary’s visit:
Is this a strategy to establish Indian hegemony in the region by depicting Pakistan as nothing more than a state subservient to India? Is this a part of a long-term series by getting India a permanent seat in the United Nations, making other SAARC countries nothing but dormant in the region by displaying India as a leader of the region and a global power instead of a regional power? Is Pakistan ready to deal with India as a member of the UNSC, in non-compliance to the UNSC resolutions regarding Kashmir? Are we cognizant of the price on which peace comes at?
It seems as if the current government of Pakistan has bitten more than it can chew, especially ever since Modi came to power. Pakistan wanted to start its relationship with the Modi regime on a positive note; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif even attended his swearing-in ceremony. He also deviated from the traditional practice of Pakistani heads of government meeting Kashmiri leadership during their visits to India.
But, as time progressed, the hopes of opening a fresh page in the Indo-Pak context faded soon. Given the frequent display of hostility by Indian officials, unprovoked firing and shelling across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, and then eventually calling off the Foreign Secretary talks last August, it seems as if Indian side has other ideas on dealing with Pakistan. It would not be far-fetched to assume that perhaps India would not have returned to the table, had it not been due to the external pressure, mainly U.S.’s pressure.
It is rather ironic that India did not raise any hue and cry as the Pakistani High Commissioner in India met with the Kashmiri Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, yesterday, as opposed to the previous time when they altogether called off the scheduled talks.
Peace should not have a price. It is not barter trade. Events like these may be viewed as a positive development, but unrealistic expectations should not be attached or expected from such meetings. Seriousness should be shown by both sides because peace is not just a question for the ruling elite, but for over 1.6 billion people. In one line, the best expression to describe the recent talks in Pakistan will be, at best, talks will remain talks.
Ifrah Waqar is currently working as a Research Associate at the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies.
The views expressed in this article are of writers own and do not necessarily present the position of the Centre.