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Posted at: Dec 1, 2015, 12:27 AM; last updated: Nov 30, 2015, 10:34 PM (IST)

A US-inspired opening

Modi should respond to Nawaz’s overtures

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Pakistan counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on Monday in Paris, he had already been presented with another opportunity to discuss irritants in bilateral ties. In his 18 months as Prime Minister, two attempts at opening talks with Pakistan were unable to breach the Hurriyat barrier. Last week, Nawaz Sharif made an open-ended statement soon after Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif returned from a US visit. Nawaz said he was ready for talks with India without any preconditions. Thus the offer for talks comes with a `no preconditions' label, meaning that Pakistan is bound to include Kashmir in the agenda of any future bilateral talks. The Americans have been at work because they do not want India-Pakistan rivalry to spill over into Afghanistan and upset the reconciliation with the Taliban.

 India has so far not reacted after the Modi-Nawaz meeting but the social media is already into an anti-talks overdrive. Its right wing corner is even against an India-Pakistan cricket series, asking what has changed to break bread with a country unrepentant about fomenting terrorism in India. Pakistan is already under tremendous pressure to reign in terror outfits patronised by its intelligence agencies. In addition to terrorism, Indian willingness to discuss Kashmir could strengthen the hands of the two Sharifs in muzzling anti-India militant outfits.

There is always the possibility that Nawaz Sharif might be showing his best profile in view of next week's conference on Afghanistan to be held in Islamabad. After all it will not reflect well on Pakistan, with its claims to part-ownership of the Afghan peace process, to stage an international meet without Indian participation. Even if that is the case, Narendra Modi would do well to seize this opening. As Farooq Abdullah has said, war is not an option to resolve the Kashmir dispute and not all the forces in the country will be able to control militancy in the state. The two Sharifs may be focused on a short-term strategy. But because normalcy in India-Pakistan is a long-haul issue, Modi should have responded positively to the overture.

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