The art of diplomacy necessitates that no country digs itself into a hole that is difficult to get out of. The Narendra Modi government finds itself in exactly such a hole, especially when it comes to its dealings with Pakistan.
In the 15 months that it has been in power, the government has taken extreme positions and sent out contradictory messages. The fact that confusion marks its policy — if it can be so termed — is evident from the manner in which Kashmiri separatists were arrested and released within a span of two hours.
Shortly before the national security advisers of India and Pakistan are to sit down for talks on terrorism, the government finds itself hostage to the red line it had drawn last year because the Pakistani envoy has extended an invite to Hurriyat Conference leaders for a reception he is hosting for his NSA, Sartaj Aziz.
Through a series of knee-jerk reactions — first arresting and then releasing the separatists in Srinagar — the government has once again sent out a message that smacks of utter confusion.
Many questions ensue: Why is the Centre opposed to a meeting between the separatists and Mr Aziz when it did not have a problem with the same separatists being present for a reception to mark Pakistan’s National Day in March?
Then, Mr Modi had sent General VK Singh, a minister and former army chief for the reception as its representative. So why is there now such an aversion to the separatists meeting the Pakistanis when the PDP, its own ally in Jammu and Kashmir, favours a dialogue?
Why is an invite to the separatists threatening talks when the terror attacks did not? India has enough concrete evidence — gathered from the last two attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur — to make out a strong case against Pakistan for allowing its soil to be used to export terror.
It should have stayed focused on the primary agenda of the NSA-level dialogue instead of being drawn into a game of brinkmanship that will only accord the separatists more legitimacy than they currently have among the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
By focusing on the separatists, India has only allowed Pakistan to succeed in its game of flagging Kashmir as an important issue that bedevils the two countries. This is neither tactically smart, nor strategically wise.