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Pakistan must not jump the gun

comment Updated: May 21, 2014 11:00 IST

Pakistan had given enough indication before and during the Lok Sabha elections that it was willing to do business with India.

While there has been no change in Islamabad’s stand on doing business and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has spoken to prime minister-to-be Narendra Modi, the neighbouring country’s latest official position that the talks must be without any preconditions can give rise to an element of discomfort.

There have been so many irritants in India-Pakistan relations that any degree of rigidity in positions can scuttle all hopes of peace.

When outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Mr Sharif in New York in September last year, the Indian side had made ending all terrorist activities on the Line of Control a precondition for taking the talks forward.

This was understandable, given the fact that there had been a terrorist attack, which led to the killing of a lieutenant colonel, in Jammu just days before the meeting. In early 2013, there had been the incident of the beheading of an Indian soldier.

Subsequently Mr Sharif’s description of Kashmir being a “flashpoint” and that the place could lead to a “fourth India-Pakistan” war drew a sharp response from Mr Singh.

Given this backdrop, some other statements from the Pakistan side also can be a cause for concern. Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit said “the two democratic countries have to decide whether we will bury the hatchet or will continue to be daggers drawn … we have to leave the use of acrimony and hostility…” In the first place, such language sounds more like that of a foreign policy analyst than of a diplomat.

Second, why bring issues such as “acrimony” and “hostility” into the foreground when the new government has not yet taken office? Does the use of such language not set the tone for future talks? It would be most advisable for Pakistan to wait in such circumstances.

India’s relations with Pakistan must be seen as part of the former’s overall thrust at preserving peace in the subcontinent and even beyond. Heads of several states have congratulated Mr Modi on his resounding victory without insisting on anything immediately from him.

There is no reason why Pakistan should be any different. After all a cardinal principle of foreign policy is continuity.