The gyrations—passing for diplomacy—over the last several days has done extensive damage to Indian foreign policy. In the short term the gentlemen in the Prime Ministers Office might be congratulating themselves for having ‘taught Pakistan a lesson” on terrorism, but the more discerning individuals in the government including the Ministry of External Affairs have probably realised the folly of a militaristic approach that at the end, has not yielded even one ‘credit’ for India.

Look at what happened to understand what has happened. There was no back channel established. And bilateral relations with Pakistan, always sensitive and fragile at the best of times, were used for grandstanding aided and abetted by an equally ignorant media that lives off the moment. No back channels were established. The result was that issues like Kashmir and Terrorism, the ‘core’ for both Pakistan and India respectively, were left to be battled out in the spotlights.

Of course Pakistan had lost the first round in Ufa insofar as its military and public opinion was concerned when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his foreign secretary agreed on a document where it was clearly stated that the National Security Advisors would meet on terrorism. Kashmir was left out of the document, and the meetings between the BSF and Pakistan Rangers as well as between the Director General Military Operations of both sides were all to be about peace on the border, and ceasefire violations. Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj was right in pointing out that the NSA talks were on Terrorism and not Kashmir in the specific sense of the word. And that Sharif, faced with flak on his return from Ufa, was forced to bring Kashmir back on the agenda which was acceptable to India as part of the overall composite dialogue, but not for the purpose of the NSA talks.

Having said this, governments in power are expected to be directed by a sense of continuity. And once it was clear—as it was immediately after the Ufa meet—that Sharif and his government in Pakistan would not be able to move away from Kashmir, at least in the public realm, India could and should have used the back channels to establish the rules of the tango as has been done any number of times in the past.

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