Lackadaisical Diplomacy

Under the changed regional and bilateral situation, it is high time that the Foreign Office revisited its talking points, especially on Pak-India relations.

Diplomacy may always be given a chance. However, one must not forget that a dialogue involves at least two parties. If the other side simply refuses to talk and does not even respond to any of your ‘friendly gestures’, how could you keep insisting on having a dialogue? How could you force a hostile country to talk and discuss thorny issues when all doors of talks are closed? By doing so, what kind of a message do you convey to your people or for that matter, the international community?

The devil is in the details.

The argument that no talks could be held with India unless it reverses its decisions of August 2019 needs serious appraisal. Does this ‘reversal’ make any sense to India particularly when it doesn’t stand to gain anything? Do we realize that a ‘reversal’ would also mean India’s continued occupation of the disputed territory? India has abrogated Art-370 and its Supreme Court has validated it. There was hardly any reaction from the people of India or the international community including the UN over the revocation of Kashmir’s special status. In a world where might is always right, one must not rely on any outside help to safeguard one’s own national interest.

Another question: In such an uncongenial atmosphere, how could Pakistan expect any positive response from India particularly on trade? Trade happens to be a two-way affair. Isn’t it? In Pakistan, the debate on starting trade with India hinges on a matter of principle. Even if you overcome the hue and cry over Kashmir, Islamabad will be unable to start trade with New Delhi if the latter is disinterested in the proposal. It may be understood that the situation has completely changed. India does not care anymore. Full stop. PM Modi even takes credit for Pakistan’s present economic woes. Would he be bothered if Pakistan ‘consistently advocated constructive engagement and result-oriented dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues’ or be troubled about the allegation of his country’s ‘intransigence and retrogressive actions’ that have ‘vitiated the atmosphere and impeded the prospects of peace and cooperation’?

On trade with India, a paradoxical situation at home makes matters even more complicated. Anytime an idea of recommencing bilateral trade was floated, it would meet severe criticism as ‘no trade could take place unless the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir’ was addressed. In March 2021, the ECC announced it would allow the private sector to import five lacs tonnes of white sugar from India and cotton via the Wagah border. Soon, the decision had to be reversed following severe criticism from the opposition. Kashmir was still unaddressed, and its special status was still revoked when in March this year, FM Dar stated that relevant stakeholders would ‘seriously examine’ the trade situation with India. Most recently, soon after PM Sharif made a conditional offer to his Indian counterpart to open talks while requesting UAE to mediate, his office clarified that such talks would only be possible if India restored the autonomous status of the occupied Jammu & Kashmir.

A country is considered important if it can inflict harm or render timely assistance. India neither expects nor needs any support from Pakistan. In the absence of any imminent or distant threat from its western neighbor, the open field has rendered Pakistan practically ‘irrelevant’ to India’s overall regional designs. For India, Pakistan is, at best, a pebble in the shoe in its pursuit of progress and realizing the dream of Akhand Bharat. In this regard, a decision seemed to have been taken during PM Modi’s second term – selectively ignore Pakistan but with contempt. Meanwhile, the focus must be on fulfilling India’s global aims such as becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council; remaining on the path of attaining an enviable sound economy; being wary of China but following an aggressive foreign policy; and enlarging the scope of ‘national interest’ like a major power and defend it at any cost – may it be an overseas assassination operation. At home, quietly, keep promoting K.B. Hedgewar’s RSS-based Hindutva policies under the garb of democracy.

Pakistan should have no issues with India’s development agenda if the latter followed the internationally accepted norms of non-interference in any other country’s internal affairs. Secondly, what India did in August 2019 to the ‘core issue’ and forcefully annex an internationally recognized disputed territory - indeed is a bitter pill for Pakistan to swallow. The question is: how long it will take for Pakistan to understand that the dynamics of geopolitics and geoeconomics have changed since the start of an indigenous uprising in the Valley in 1989, and India is now a new look country with fresh software? Instead of realizing the on-ground situation, Pakistan keeps insisting on resuming dialogue with India, knowing full well the response.

Under the changed regional and bilateral situation, it is high time that the Foreign Office revisited its talking points, especially on Pak-India relations. On commencing trade with India, let us wait for the right time as such ‘diplomatic offers’ are meaningless under the circumstances, to say the least. In fact, such ‘offers’ indicate a kind of weakness and unwarranted urgency, which obviously is not the idea. Secondly, it needs to be realized that India bashing is inversely proportionate to the idea of normalization of relations. How could you normalize relations with a country that you firmly believe is ‘belligerent’ and has ‘unleas¬hed a wave of oppression’? Thirdly, if the ‘onus is on New Delhi to take steps for the creation of an environment that is conducive to peace and dialogue’ and - India is unresponsive - what does Pakistan stand to gain by reiterating its one-sided desire to have peace in the region? Why would India create a congenial environment for talks when it doesn’t want to talk? Something is not making any sense here. Perhaps, the Foreign Office or Pakistan-based think tanks could give a title to the kind of diplomacy in play at present.

Najm us Saqib
The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and author of eight books in three languages. He can be reached at najmussaqib1960

The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and author of eight books in three languages. He can be reached at

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