India hopes to get Pak talk the walk

With just a week to go before the foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan....

Written by Pranab Dhal Samanta | New Delhi | Published: February 19, 2010 12:25:14 am

With just a week to go before the foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan,the government is being very cautious in not raising expectations on outcomes but at the same time is clear that holding talks is vital in a dynamic situation when anti-India sentiment is on the rise in Pakistan.

While India has a range of specific demands on the terror front like repeating its requests on voice samples of those arrested in Pakistan for orchestrating the 26/11 attacks,there is less hope that the Pakistani side will immediately agree to deliver on these demands. If they were to do so,India feels it will definitely bolster future prospects of this conversation.

However,New Delhi is trying to work according to a realistic assessment of the situation. The broader view here is that the Pakistan Army and the ISI,which form the core of the current Pakistani establishment,see themselves in a stronger position now. Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has been upfront about how Afghanistan provides Pakistan strategic depth.

Also,Kayani is not mincing words with the US when it comes to the possibility of striking deals with various Taliban groups. But more importantly from an Indian perspective,the absence of any conversation is being projected within Pakistan as another sign of Indian inflexibility and arrogance. Issues like the water problem in Pakistan’s Punjab and adjoining areas is being whipped up into a near frenzy as an anti-India issue.

Any escalatory move that could be precipitated by a terror attack would mean strengthening that logic within Pakistan. Dialogue at this juncture,at least,helps underline India’s sincerity. It’s learnt that the government is keen to make the point,even internationally,that India is not blocking engagement with Pakistan.

In fact,it is increasingly being felt in South Block that there is little option other than strengthening internal security measures while keeping a flexible diplomatic strategy with Pakistan. It’s learnt that the government feels it needs to widen its options in a fast-changing situation on the Af-Pak front. With the US having set a deadline for beginning to reduce its troop commitment in Afghanistan and countries like the UK pushing for reconciliation with the so called “good Taliban”,India feels the need to re-engage with other stakeholders like Iran and other Central Asian countries.

In this context,the reopening conversation with Pakistan too becomes vital. Also,New Delhi is keen to reach out to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai,who is even more receptive in the second innings to Indian overtures.

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