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Modi Sharif Dialogue – A trend of painful surprises

The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Pakistan, was deemed “surprising” by the media. Surprising because the Media was not informed earlier about this event, due to the fact that TV Channels and Media Houses in both countries tend to screw up the conditions for conducive dialogue, by unnecessary finger pointing. However, it would be fair to describe that Modi’s worldwide trotting for the duration of 2015 came to a headline grabbing, masterstroke close.

But Modi and Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to drive a dialogue based diplomacy has not yielded any results.

Pakistan Media took no reservations in promoting Modi agenda during the early days of victory by the suggested Hindu hardliner – a man who made efforts to demonize Pakistan in his campaign speeches. Instead, Modi invited Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration.

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But less than two months later, the two countries were exchanging artillery fire across the border. Talks between the two countries’ foreign secretaries were scheduled in New Delhi, only to be called off when the Pakistanis, met with Indian Kashmiri separatist leaders. In an unrelated note, the BJP came into power with PDP, for the first time in Kashmir a few months later.

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In November 2014, at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Kathmandu, a moment was seen where Modi was ignoring Sharif as he walked past. However, it was later revealed that the two leaders had met in a hotel earlier.

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Last February, Modi poked at the Cricket Diplomacy card, calling Sharif to wish his country luck in the Cricket World Cup, and dispatching his foreign secretary to Islamabad. But mistrust again prevailed, and a cold peace ensued.

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Another “surprise” meeting of the two prime ministers in Ufa, Russia, in July produced negligible progress. Both Pakistan and India rejecting each other’s statements about the topics of discussion, and agreements reached between the two sides.

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Soon after, yet another scheduled meeting of national security advisers in Delhi was called off at the last minute, again following a meeting between Pakistani officials and Kashmiri separatists.

But, with a brief encounter between Sharif and Modi on the sidelines of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris on November 30, the tone changed yet again.

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As another complete “surprise” the two countries’ national security advisers conferred in Bangkok in December. A few days later, India’s external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, visited Islamabad for the fifth Heart of Asia ministerial conference on Afghanistan. She met with top Pakistani officials, including both Sharif, before announcing that the two countries had decided to restart a comprehensive dialogue.

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It is against this background that Modi made his “surprise” visit to Lahore (to attend celebrations of Sharif’s birthday and his granddaughter’s marriage), raising hopes among some that the bilateral relationship may be undergoing a genuine sea change.

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However, the house of cards build between India and Pakistan came down with the predictable attack on Pathankot Air Force base killing Indian civilians.

There is enough reason for strained relationship between the two countries. For India’s part, Pakistan has not prosecuted the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai massacre, have not done anything to eradicate extreme terrorist activities operating within their country, and continues with the complicity of the military establishment on India’s territory. It has not even handed over Dawood Ibrahim, the fugitive don of the Mumbai underworld.

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Indians cannot afford to forget that the last time Sharif hosted a celebrated feel-good visit by an Indian prime minister in Lahore, in 1999, his army subsequently started a war with India on the Kargil heights and unseated Sharif himself within months. As 2016 begins, India as a nation continues to pray for peace and can only hope that history will not repeat itself.

About Shobhit Dixit

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