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As Rajnath Singh leaves for Islamabad, hopes for another window of opportunity

Now that Home Minister Rajnath Singh is visiting Islamabad for the SAARC meeting, he doesn't seem to have the same advantage, conducive environment or euphoria created after that famous handshake.

Written by Wali Ahmad | New Delhi | Updated: October 4, 2016 12:27 pm
narendra modi, nawaz sharif, modi nawaz sharif, india pakistan ties, rajnath singh, rajnath singh pakistan visit, rajnath singh islamabad, india news, narendra modi nawaz sharif Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) greeted by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after Modi took the oath of office at the presidential palace in New Delhi on May 26, 2014. (Source: Reuters)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handshake with his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif soon after taking oath at the Rashtrapati Bhawan courtyard in that early summer of 2014 was the defining picture as the new dispensation in New Delhi took charge. Breaking from the past, Modi had invited Sharif, apart from leaders of other neighbouring countries, for his swearing-in ceremony. It was a massive diplomatic outreach by the new PM in the context of the hostile and acrimonious ties the two neighbours share. The meeting raised hopes of a new start in India’s policy towards Pakistan. It was also a complete change in approach between Modi, the PM candidate and Modi, the Prime Minister. The 56-inch bravado during the Lok Sabha election campaign was a thing of the past.

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Despite the UPA government’s hyperventilating stand of an ‘uninterruptible’ dialogue with Pakistan, the then PM Manmohan Singh could not make a single visit to Islamabad. So when Modi invited Sharif, many believed it was the departure of jingoism attached with dialogue between the two countries. But two years is too long a time.

narendra modi, nawaz sharif, modi nawaz sharif, india pakistan ties, rajnath singh, rajnath singh pakistan visit, rajnath singh islamabad, india news, narendra modi nawaz sharif Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif’s home in Raiwind, where his grand-daughter’s wedding is being held, at Lahore, Pakistan on December 25, 2015. (Source: PIB)

Now that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is visiting Islamabad for the SAARC meeting, he doesn’t seem to have the same advantage, conducive environment or euphoria created after that famous handshake. Under the Modi government, the first chance of a high-level engagement between the two countries came in August 2014 when the Foreign Secretaries of both the nations were slated to meet. But taking a maximalist position, India cancelled the talks over then Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders ahead of the crucial talks. The shrillness in talks was back. Pakistan argued that there was nothing new when the Hurriyat leaders met Basit. But India was adamant – talk to us, or the separatists.

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After months of chill in ties, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad in December 2015 was seen as a result of a back-channel hard work and secret meetings. Also, a chance meeting between Modi and Sharif on the sidelines of the climate summit in Paris was seen as a precursor to Swaraj’s Islamabad visit. Swaraj, who attended the Heart of Asia Summit in Islamabad, conveyed to Pakistan that both the countries should display “maturity” in doing business with each other.

narendra modi, nawaz sharif, modi nawaz sharif, india pakistan ties, rajnath singh, rajnath singh pakistan visit, rajnath singh islamabad, india news, narendra modi nawaz sharif PM Narendra Modi with Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif in Ufa. (Source: PTI/File)

Sushma Swaraj’s visit was followed by a surprise stopover by Modi in Lahore. This was one foreign policy moment that Modi, perhaps, will be remembered for years to come. It was hailed as a transformative move in India and Pakistan relationship. Modi’s meeting with Sharif and his family members during the marriage ceremony in Lahore was a ‘picture-perfect’ frame which dominated the headlines for days.

However, the bonhomie didn’t last long as Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed soon carried out attacks at the Pathankot Air Base. The National Security Guards later revealed that terrorists were carrying AK-47 assault rifles, a grenade launcher, a dagger, cough tablets and some perfume. And they were there for a long haul. Whatever was gained in the last one year seemed to have been lost.

And the recent spate in violence in Kashmir after the killing of Hizbul militant Burhan Wani has once again raised the pitch on both sides of the border. Pakistan even went on to declare a black day. Home Minister Rajnath Singh reminded Pakistan not to interfere in India’s internal affairs.

In this backdrop, the Home Minister’s visit to Pakistan will perhaps define the future course. Asking for resumption of a composite dialogue may be far fetched now, but Rajnath’s visit can, at least, open a window of opportunity for future engagements.

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More From Wali Ahmad
  1. J
    John
    Jul 29, 2016 at 6:21 am
    Blah blah and more blah full of garbage and hot air coming out of your back.
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    1. A
      Abdul Ali
      Jul 28, 2016 at 7:59 pm
      I wanted to give here a fair and honest opinion. I know many of you are going to comment but let's get it out. First of all when we talk about Hindus we say upper caste or Dalit and so on. Well same with Muslims and stan. Neither Muslims nor stan are single eny even though we try to club them together. Even in Muslims, we non-Sunni like Shia are much more moderate and don't believe in violence. Same in stan many people including may be Nawaz Sharif might believe that his business interests will grow with peace with India. But it is his political belief to stay in power he might be able to do much not the army which funds the terrorists wants peace with India. And then there are Sunni jihadists. So there is only so much India can do to seek peace.
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      1. M
        Maniktripathy
        Jul 28, 2016 at 6:02 pm
        Good vacation for inept HM and his goons traveling with him...Just like other sessions, Nada will come out of it, as we don't have any game plan to tackle the menace of "terrorism and nations sponsoring terrorism".....
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        1. M
          Maniktripathy
          Jul 29, 2016 at 1:02 am
          Well even after 5 years you will say the same thing and get over this and stop blaming congress, as we know about their follies and starting working...Totally spineless inept governance...
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          1. R
            Rani
            Jul 28, 2016 at 5:55 pm
            RSS BJP TRAITORS SHOULD APOLOGIZE TO INDIA FOR OBSTRUCTING OUR GROWTH FOR LAST 7 DECADES.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;When UPA was ruling RSS BJP Modi were talkibg of toufh stance against stan but now when India has given them a chance RSS BJP traitors ARE WORSE than UPA. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;RS BJP is HUMILIATING and INSULTING india by repeatedly visiting stan like rss bjp is their slaves.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;How much do isi pay RSS BJP to defame and destroy Hindus and india?
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