The bilateral meeting between PM Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, produced a joint declaration that has subsequently been followed up by Islamabad declaring it cannot fulfil what was asked of it at Ufa and, now, cross-border artillery exchanges in Kashmir. This is perhaps not unexpected.
There had been surprise that Pakistan had accepted any joint declaration with India that did not explicitly mention Kashmir. Mr Sharif was seemingly desperate enough to have a conversation with Mr Modi that he was prepared to overlook a Kashmir mention. But having pocketed the bilateral meeting and facing increasing criticism at home, Mr Sharif began backtracking on the Ufa commitment. It was made clear that Kashmir was still on the agenda. Pakistan also indicated that it would not go through with the provision of voice samples related to the 26/11 attack. It claims it has sound legal reasons, but that does not explain why the Pakistani PM made a commitment at Ufa.
The shelling along the LoC in Kashmir was perhaps a logical follow-up in Rawalpindi’s eyes — make no mistake that Pakistan’s India policy is wholly determined by its military. New Delhi has warned of a response, but will feel constrained by the fact the summit meeting was just held
a few days ago.
Mr Modi has a vision for the larger South Asian neighbourhood that has unfolded well from Nepal to Bangladesh, is plodding along in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, but is in the doldrums when it comes to Pakistan. Critics on the left will argue that Mr Modi extracted an impossible price from Mr Sharif by trying to exclude Kashmir. Those on the right will argue he made a mistake in holding talks at all and the PM needs to be far more clear about his vision regarding Pakistan and India.
There are valid arguments for stonewalling Pakistan. India has enough on its plate. Pakistan is too busy trying to reconquer Afghanistan and repair its economy to cause much trouble. A more statesmanlike argument could be made for attempting a broader engagement with Pakistan, one that would result in some pain but would hold the possibility of something transformational later. But now, the sense of a Pakistan policy based on events just weeks before and after, lacking in strategic depth, is hard to escape.