Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s candid admission of slim chances for talks with India is a reflection of the times we live in. The eastern neighbour has laid a military siege in Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir. It is looking to counter our diplomatic push by instigating terrorist outfits in Pakistan once more. There are continuous violations along the Line of Control (LoC) from the other side on a daily basis; civilians are specifically targeted. All of this and the Modi government’s treatment of Muslims at home and its statements against us abroad indicate that the minister is spot on with his assessment of the regional scenario.

However, the status quo cannot be permanent. There are benefits that two states can reap based on mutual understanding due to geographical proximity alone. India and Pakistan are no different. We cannot choose our neighbours, and there must come a time, after both sides have had their fill of discontent and acrimony, where the two sides will have to work together. But before that, it is important that Pakistan does not close its doors to talks.

There is no indication that the government is leaning towards-Adviser the Prime Minister just recently came out and stated that Pakistan would be willing to negotiate, provided India finally reciprocated our efforts. But with the Modi government at the helm, the FM has rightly indicated that talks do not seem likely.

But where state-to-state dialogue is not an option, backchannel diplomacy or track 2 discussions can be very beneficial. This is why the Pakistan government must encourage its people—experts, journalists, diplomats and former policymakers—to engage with their counterparts across the border. We still have options, and it is important to not let this divisive narrative in India permeate into all sections of society. The Pakistani people must make sure that both sides are not completely alienated from each other, otherwise, the Modi government would have achieved one of its central objectives.