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This rhetoric does not help

comment Updated: Jun 03, 2016 11:02 IST

Two instances this week pointed again to the ambivalent condition that India-Pakistan ties find themselves in. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called Prime Minister Narendra Modi just before he was “wheeled in” for an open heart surgery in the UK. PM Modi duly wished him a speedy recovery and good health on Twitter. But personal equations rarely transcend structural constraints as Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain’s remarks on bilateral ties indicate. Addressing Parliament this week, Hussain framed the relationship in ways that reflect Mr Sharif’s congenial outlook while conveying the military’s misgivings about the relationship. This balancing act unfortunately achieves little beyond irritating Indian policymakers, aggravating public opinion and highlighting the cul-de-sac that bilateral ties are in.

Mr Hussain did not mention India explicitly but spoke of Pakistan’s desire for friendly relations with neighbours. He reiterated that the main cause of tension was the Kashmir issue and said that as long as this issue was not resolved in accordance with the wishes of the people of J&K and UN resolutions “the problems of this region will remain unresolved”. Mr Hussain reckoned that Pakistan’s “warm and sincere offer” to conduct an uninterrupted and meaningful dialogue had not been reciprocated and said that the abeyance of foreign secretarylevel negotiations was a matter of “serious concern” to Islamabad. This is all unfortunately a bit self-serving. The fact is that India is still waiting for Pakistan to show the requisite urgency to prosecute those behind the Pathankot attack.

The Dawn newspaper dismissed Hussain’s remarks as “a speech to forget”. But Indians will be interested in the way it articulated Pakistan’s ambitions, notwithstanding the difficult circumstances it finds itself in. It refers to its expanding ties with West Asia and Central Asia in the context of connectivity projects driven by China and other multilateral ventures. But Islamabad needs to remind itself that its prosperity is linked to linkages with India — and for its interests to be served it needs to both imaginatively tackle economic constraints (like granting transit rights for Indian goods to Afghanistan) and be more purposive about countering India-focused terror.