wise offer

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 22 Aug 2018 12:46:37

PRIME Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has done well to offer a hand of cooperation to Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan to build what he called ‘constructive engagement’. So powerful was that endeavour that Pakistan hurried to explain to the world that India has not made any offer for a bilateral dialogue. That Pakistan had to make that hurried explanation known to the world shows how effective Mr. Modi’s ploy was. The most critical fear Pakistan carried was that the world might misunderstand it for not having said ‘yes’ to India’s offer. So, no talks, though other measures are not unwelcome. Cautious diplomacy, all right on Pakistan’s part. On India’s part, however, it was an offer pregnant with so many positive possibilities, which Pakistan could not refuse but also could not grab with both hands. So, in Islamabad, ‘caution’ is the word. In New Delhi, constructive engagement is the way.

Right within the first week of assuming office, Mr. Imran Khan has understood the complication of diplomacy. It is unfortunate that Pakistan is trying a game of oneupmanship with India when there is no need to do so. At this stage, it is not willing to have bilateral talks with India. The apprehension is obvious: Islamabad may not be able to get past India’s persuasive diplomacy. Something like that happened with China as well during the Doka La face-off. China refused to have any talks with India. With Mr. Modi’s offer of a constructive engagement, Mr. Imran Khan’s Pakistan too felt rather unsure of the route it should take vis-a-vis India.

This was expected. For, since he took over the control of India’s foreign policy management, Mr. Modi developed a very engaging, persuasive style of diplomacy. He has way of getting close to the other party’s inner ideas, and develop a narrative that others find difficult to push away. What Islamabad felt now was something Beijing had done a few months ago -- no talks with India at least then.

Subsequently, however, Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi Jinping struck a common cord and evolved a loose mechanism that would stall any direct confrontation between the respective armies. Pakistan’s biggest fear is that India may propose an unavoidable mechanism to take fresh steps toward a dialogue. So, no talks. But this also conceals in its belly a possibility that Pakistan wants to talk only under the shadow of rejuvenated terror so as to put India in a tight spot. This is utter nonsense, so to say. For, India under Mr. Modi is not a party that can cower under pressure.
Creative engagement is a very smart phrase, but it also has terrific possibilities of reducing hostilities in a big way. Going by the face value, it must be admitted that Mr. Imran Khan favours a dialogue. Yet, on the other hand, he also suspects that Mr. Modi’s silently aggressive diplomacy may consume him. This is a good omen for India, so to say.

Even though Mr. Imran Khan has talked of a conciliation of sorts with India, he has not stopped short of saying directly that Kashmir is a bone of contention between the two countries, a position India rejects outright. Despite that, Mr. Modi has proposed a constructive engagement with Islamabad on multiple fronts. He is certainly not naive to talk poetry and utopia. So, he is talking of encouraging a constructive engagement with Pakistan so that the possibilities of peace get enhanced.

There is, however, a danger zone that India will have to tackle. Even as Mr. Imran Khan took over, the hostilities along the border did not cease. Much to the contrary, they grew in number and intensity. India also did not mind, in the sense its retaliation was more fierce than in the past. Whatever the details, it is obvious that Islamabad does not seem to be ready for any effort to reduce hostilities. Fortunately, India knows how to interpret that.