Prime minister Manmohan Singh’s riposte was quick and to the point — Pakistan cannot win a war with India in his lifetime. This was in response to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s provocative remark that Kashmir was a flashpoint that could trigger off a fourth war between the nuclear neighbours.
Mr Sharif also spoke of his commitment to the Kashmir cause and his desire to see a ‘free’ Kashmir.
It is odd that he should be so concerned for Kashmir when Pakistan is going down a slippery slope.
Instead of trying to set his own house in order, Mr Sharif seems to want to play a bigger role in the region, though given Pakistan’s track record, no one believes that the country can do much more than disperse what it calls non-State actors to wreak havoc in other places, notably India.
These belligerent statements come after his adviser Sartaj Aziz has claimed that Indian troops were polluting water sources in Siachen and therefore, should pull out.
Mr Sharif’s provocative pronouncements must come as a huge disappointment to those in India who had hoped that his choosing Raheel Sharif, an army chief, perceived to be less hawkish than his predecessor General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was a sign that he intends to call the shots and not leave the bulk of power to the army.
It is possible that he is playing to the galleries at home with his sharp remarks about a fourth war. He knows full well that such a war is hardly a possibility, leave along winnable for Pakistan.
There is little he has done since assuming office to show that he is serious about pushing the peace process forward.
The infiltration aided by the Pakistani military could not have been without his knowledge. If indeed it was, it shows that he does not have a grip on things. There is no doubt that India will have to continue engaging with Pakistan.
But it would be wise to curb expectations of a peace agreement any time soon with the new government.
The more things change, the more they remain the same in Pakistan. This is unfortunate but it is something that India has to learn to live with.