Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue with Pakistan: ‘Curiouser and curiouser!’

So far, it has been hard to understand how a new government which promised to boldly move forward in May 2014 has actually landed up back at November 2008.

Written by Sushant Singh | Updated: December 10, 2015 10:29 am
Composite Dialogue, India, Pakistan, News, India News, Indo Pak talks The Composite Dialogue was disrupted due to the Kargil War of 1999, and resumed during the fag end of Vajpayee’s tenure in January 2004.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

That is the exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and it aptly captures Wednesday’s sudden move by the BJP government to resume the Composite Dialogue with Pakistan. In fact, the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue, as it has been christened now, includes all issues of the Composite Dialogue, plus counter-terrorism, humanitarian issues and religious tourism. The two National Security Advisors will meet separately to discuss terror related issues, which unlike counter-terrorism, seems to be outside of the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue.

Composite Dialogue first started in 1997 when PM Inder Kumar Gujral and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif agreed for a structured framework talks between the two countries. The dialogue was disrupted after the 1998 nuclear tests, but resumed following the famous Lahore Declaration of 1998 when PM Atal Behari Vajpayee travelled to Lahore on a bus.

The Composite Dialogue was disrupted due to the Kargil War of 1999, and resumed during the fag end of Vajpayee’s tenure in January 2004. It continued under PM Manmohan Singh when it was shelved after the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008. The talks, rechristened as the Resumed Dialogue, were back on track in 2011 but were halted again in 2012 after the beheading of Indian soldiers on the Line of Control.

During his election campaign in 2013 and 2014, PM Narendra Modi was very vocal about a strong and muscular policy towards Pakistan. His invite to PM Nawaz Sharif for the BJP government’s swearing in ceremony in May 2014 surprised most observers. But those hopes were belied when the process kept getting stalled over Pakistani insistence on meeting Hurriyat leaders, which led to cancellation of talks.

The Ufa declaration in July, on the sidelines of the SCO summit, laid out a roadmap but it was interpreted differently by the two countries. India insisted that talks would be sequenced and limited to discussing terror between the two NSAs, LoC between the two DGMOs and so on. The NSA-level talks in Delhi in August were thus shelved when Indians were not willing to allow the Pakistani NSA to meet Hurriyat leaders.

The Indian foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, in a widely appreciated press conference, explained the Modi government’s policy towards Pakistan being dictated by the Ufa Declaration, with no third party interference or meeting in a third country being acceptable to Delhi. But in November, the two NSAs, away from media glare and without any announcement, met in Bangkok for a four-hour meeting. This had been preceded by a very short chat between PM Modi and PM Sharif in Paris on the sidelines of COP 21 summit.

Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to make a statement on her Pakistan visit and the government’s Pakistan policy in Parliament on Thursday. That will perhaps explain the distance traversed by the government on Pakistan in the last 18 months, and lay out a roadmap for the future. So far, it has been hard to understand — or to use Lewis Caroll immortal phrase, “Curiouser and curiouser!” — how a new government which promised to boldly move forward in May 2014 has actually landed up back at November 2008.

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  1. V
    Vedic Rashtra
    Dec 10, 2015 at 5:54 am
    I suggest we go back to 1947 instead of 2008, fix the boundary issue the way we did with Bangladesh and put an end to all this useless nonsense that congis have kept alive for 70 yrs.
    1. K
      Dec 10, 2015 at 9:25 am
      The photoshopped black to pink mann-key man has failed to do anything noteworthy in India. And now he hopes he can hoodwink the stanis. The photoshopped black to pink Gujjubhai mann-key man is just another Gujjubhai businessman. Smiles, promises, smiles, promises. At the end of the transaction, your 95% of the money somehow gets into his pocket. And you don't even see it! Will the stanis fall for the Gujju ploys? Most likely not. What India needs now is to prepare to welcome Mr Nitish Kumar or Mr Rahul hi as their PM. Mr Nitish Kumar and Mr Rahul hi have the style and the substance. The photoshopped black to pink Gujjubhai mann-key man has empty slogans, unkept promises, and selfies with the goras.
      1. Fairworldwide Fairworldwide
        Dec 10, 2015 at 9:27 am
        What is this man up to? People voted him to power expecting him to 1. Hold thugs accountable for the loot. People expected the gangsters in Jain but after the electing he is dilly dallying with them like a rat and arranges tea party for them. 2. Black money stashed abroad was promised back into the country in 100 days and not only nothing happened but made an accused Jaitly his right hand man in spite of people voting him out an there were plenty of elected MPs available 3.He was shouting at the top of his voice against corruption but did not even bring a jokepal bill. 4. Talks with stan was stalled for their irresponsible and extremely hostile actions like refusing to book terror accused, harboring Dawood etc but meekly go for talks in a sly manner without stan refusing to budge an inch 5. It was the declared policy not to have any mediators and now British government mediated. Shame on us to elect this cheat
        1. S
          Dec 10, 2015 at 7:12 am
          Sad to see BJP cave in so tamely into resuming talks with stan. In a situation where stan has not made any concessions in regard to its stated positions on various issues, it is not clear what we have gained by this great climb down. I sincerely hope the national interest will not be bartered away for the sake of plaudits from the international community of which our Prime Minister seems to be so deeply enamoured.
          1. R
            Dec 10, 2015 at 7:19 am
            The article has detailed how every peace effort has been derailed by the stanis. stan's only reason for existence is to be a India hating state. Take India hating out of the equation and how does the Pak army justify all the expenditure ? Hence, it has always scuttled the peace process. The problem with various Indian PMs, from Nehru to Modi, is that they refuse to accept this reality & go on a ego trip whereby national resources are squandered while they search for dramatic solutions. We gain nothing by talks while stan uses the lowered guard,on the Indian side, to perpetrate further terror attacks.
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