Foreign policy experts have dubbed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Ufa, Russia, high on optics and low on deliverables.
The meeting in itself is being perceived as a departure from the Modi government’s stated position on Pakistan.
Even as the joint statement asserted that the leaders are prepared to discuss all “outstanding issues,” experts were quick to point out that there was no mention of resuming the composite dialogue. They were also sceptical about Pakistan’s intentions to counter terrorism.
Former Deputy National Security Adviser Leela Ponappa told The Hindu that the meeting has given a five-point agreement, but not much else “to be excited about.”
‘No commitmentfrom Pakistan’ Referring to the proposed meeting between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism, she said: “Will Pakistan agree to stop terrorism when the NSAs meet? Will they agree to hand over the voice samples [for expediting Mumbai attack trials]? Meetings between DG, BSF, and DG, Pakistan Rangers, have been happening, Director Generals of Military Operation (DGMOs) talk, release of fishermen and religious tourism is an ongoing process. It is all fine in terms of a statement, but is there a commitment from Pakistan to stop terrorism?”
Former Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh said the joint statement indicates a “positive development, and shows an unfreezing from the Indian side,” but he also underlined the silence on the issue of resuming the composite dialogue.
“I think it is significant that for the first time the NSAs have been formally brought into the talks, earlier the discussions used to be at the Foreign Secretary-level. In any case, the meeting of the DGMOs that took place after a gap of 14 years (in 2013) did not lead to anything important on border management.”
Mr. Mansingh also pointed out that India should not have settled for saying that both sides have agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai attack trial as it contradicts New Delhi’s claims that Pakistan has been dragging its feet on the issue. “India has already completed the trials. By saying we are expediting the trials, we are taking on the responsibility of the delay,” he said.
Former Ambassador and deputy NSA Satish Chandra minced no words in describing the meeting as a “climb down” by the Modi government from its position on Pakistan. He said the meeting was a “surprise” because the government had taken a “tough posture” vis-à-vis Pakistan, and even laid down conditions for talks.
“In the past as well, there have been flip-flops by successive Indian governments. The present government had made known their tough position on Pakistan but there have been no substantial engagements on countering terrorism, despite that there is a change of policy,” he said.
Mr. Chandra said there is a need for India to be “consistent” in its policy towards Pakistan and that it cannot be accused of “exporting terror” one day and designated as “best friend” the other.