Talks on terror: Can the two 'weak' prime ministers achieve any goal?

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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is set to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Sunday. The meeting is supposed to be very crucial in the bilateral relations, especially when the two neighbours are witnessing border clashes on a regular basis. But will the talks deliver?

It is unlikely. The biggest reason is: Both the incumbents are weak and their status in the domestic circles roughly match each other despite the fact that while Singh is nearing the end of his second tenure, Sharif has just started his third term.

Both PMs look vulnerable

Sharif has little capacity as the prime minister because the civilian administration in Pakistan has yet to go some distance before it asserts its effective say in the national policies. On Sunday, the Pakistani Taliban said that Sharif has no authority to talk to the militants while the army is not entirely in favour of either opening unconditional talks with the Pakitsani Taliban nor rush over the talks with India. Sharif's plan to start a civilian-military joint initiative to strive for internal peace in terror-hit Pakistan has not delivered any big result so far.

Friday's 'royal coup' can seriously hamper the Indo-Pak peace talks

Singh, on the other hand, looks a prime minister in search of respect in his own government and party. The man, who has been vehemently criticised by the opposition time and again, was slammed by the vice-president of his own party on Friday, completely ruining his reputation.

Some observers feel Rahul Gandhi's open criticism of the UPA government over a controversial ordinance to shield convicted politicians might not impact Prime Minister Singh in matters of foreign policy, but the Indian prime minister's reputation has been suffering incremental damage and the latest Gandhi episode could be the final seal on the tragic story of Manmohan's fall from grace.

Rahul Gandhi's awful sense of timing

Rahul Gandhi might have done a great job to revive his party's image ahead of crucial elections, but he did it at the cost of the Indian government. The family prevailed over the government and the party threw its weight behind the former. The ultimate looser was Singh, even though the move on the ordinance was taken by a Cabinet and not just the prime minister. But, borrowing an idea from cricket, if you continue to play defensively, there will be a time when all eleven fielders will be kept at close-in fielding positions, making your fall imminent. Singh just proved that theory right in politics.

But the ill-timing of Rahul Gandhi's criticism is certain to make the talks with the hostile neighbour ineffective for he has rattled the Indian leader's authority with his strong criticism on a domestic affair. He could have waited for Singh to return and take up the issue with him after that. It is difficult to believe that Gandhi did not know about the episode all this while. The sudden outburst looked superficial, even if it was out of conviction.

Manmohan might not even impact a weak Sharif, forget the Pakistan army and terrorists

Coming back to India-Pakistan talks on terror, nobody knows how long Singh will remain as the prime minister after Rahul Gandhi's outburst. Rubbishing the ordinance was somewhat equivalent to a 'royal coup' and if indeed Singh looks a vulnerable lame-duck prime minister now, there is little hope that will talking tough on terror will make any impact on even a weak Sharif, forget the army and the terror camps patronised in Pakistan.

The BJP might not know whether to feel happy or sad at this moment, that's for sure.

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