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Posted at: Mar 9, 2018, 12:46 AM; last updated: Mar 9, 2018, 12:46 AM (IST)

The opening with Pakistan

Return of veneer of normality
The opening with Pakistan
The India-Pakistan saga has taken many strange twists and turns. One of them would be India’s sudden offer to break bread with Pakistan on humanitarian issues even as soldiers take potshots at each other along the border in J&K. Equally surprising is Pakistan’s quick acceptance of the offer to de-escalate the hostilities on the border. It may not be hard to detect the inspiration behind the abrupt realisation that the border needs peace and that women and the elderly are the worst sufferers in the absence of regular diplomatic relations. The US is trying to regain its lost geopolitical footing following quicksilver moves in the region by the Chinese. Washington allows New Delhi to do the heavylifting in the contest with Beijing for island-nations in the Indian Ocean or the countries between Tibet and India. But it has taken matters in its own hand to check the Af-Pak drift away from the Western camp.

The US interest in easing tensions between India and Pakistan is obvious. It has just offered an olive branch to the Taliban and warm words to coax Pakistan into relocating bulk of its army on the Afghanistan border to bottle-up militants out to sabotage the talks. A prime requirement for the US game in Afghanistan to succeed is peace on the Indo-Pak border. For both countries uninterested in normalising ties because of the divergence in their core concerns, the humanitarian angle is a convenient cover to announce a break from the mutually unhelpful and endless skirmishing on the border.

Appearances can be deceptive but Pakistan has offered more than a formal breaking of bread by dangling the prospect of a comprehensive dialogue. This is the ideal opening for diplomats to step in. India needs space to strengthen its internal political processes in J&K as well as allow smooth implementation of its Iran trade corridor and the gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, even as it keeps turning the screws on Pakistan for harbouring militants. A stoppage of dialogue has so far only added more files to the folder of bilateral negativity. 

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