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Trite Talks

by Newsweek Pakistan
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Narinder Nanu—AFP

Tough ask for either Pakistan or India to initiate peace talks right now

The official launch of a new book in New Delhi has once again touched off rumors of Pakistan-India peace talks. The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace, coauthored by two former spy chiefs, A.S. Dulat of India and Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani of Pakistan has tongues wagging on both sides of the border. Dulat raised eyebrows even further by asking the Modi government to invite Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to kick-start the infamously stalled conversation between India and Pakistan.

Dulat took note of the hard line taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Pakistan thanks to his National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who is said to have suffered maltreatment while posted undercover in Islamabad. A cocky Durrani, who addressed the occasion by telephone as he was not granted an Indian visa, was his usual sarcastic self in commenting on the Modi-Doval hardline policy on Pakistan. Dulat was more diplomatic. Quoted in The Indian Express, he said: “As far as his capabilities go, Doval is one of our outstanding operational guys. He’s a field man.”

It is a tough ask to want India and Pakistan to talk. In India, there is much bad blood with Pakistan since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and Modi leans on that to keep up with mortar-fire on the ceasefire line, killing Pakistani civilians on a daily basis. Pakistan protests but the world no longer cares and the Indian media responds by reporting that the border violations are actually by Pakistan.

An Indian diplomat may see profit in talking now that Pakistan is internally disturbed and externally vulnerable on two fronts. Dulat points to Trump talking to North Korea, which tells us how a pro-talks India sizes up the situation. Pakistan has only RAW agent Kulbhushan Jadhav to play with. Given Modi’s pursuit of the astute “concentric circles” doctrine from Arthashastra, India has penetrated Iran and the Arab world while being cozy with Pakistan’s “reliable friend” China, which wants the normalization Pakistan doesn’t. Is Pakistan ready to develop the statesmanlike suppleness of not frontloading Kashmir and picking up the stalled Indo-Pak free-trade plan that its prime ministers were not allowed to implement in the past?

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