re India and Pakistan gradually hardening their positions after a brief phase last year when things looked hopeful? On Wednesday, Pakistan's Foreign Affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz said India was avoiding dialogue with Pakistan for it would demand negotiating over difficult issues like Kashmir. [PM Modi's foreign policy is attractive because it is simple and realistic]
Aziz's domestic posturing came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Times Now Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in an exclusive interview that his government's willingness to talk to the neighbouring country was hit by its problem with the actual power centre.
PM Modi's unhappiness over Pakistan's position was clear in that interview
"Who to talk to in Pakistan," asked Modi. He also said that while talks across the table would go on, the soldiers at the borders had also been given full freedom to retaliate in the language they are comfortable. He backed his efforts to reach out to Pakistan and said it was his relentless pursuit of talks that the stand of India has been made clear before the world while Pakistan is facing problems. [Difference between Modi's interviews to Arnab: 2016 vs 2014]
Pakistan's leading daily Dawn described Modi's stance during the interview in an editorial as: "It was a quintessential performance by Mr Modi: claiming to be in favour of peace, while making peace the hardest possibility."
The previous week also saw a militant attack on a CRPF convoy in Pampore in Jammu and Kashmir, killing eight personnel. And now with leaders and officials uttering strong words on both sides of the Wagah, it seems peace might be the last thing to get a chance in the sub-continent.
Modi setting an agenda without Pakistan now?
The fact that PM Modi is setting the agenda minus Pakistan while reaching out to immediate (Iran, Afghanistan) and distant (US) friends and focusing on breaking ice with the Chinese over mission NSG might hint at New Delhi's changing priorities.
After his government's repeated initiatives to begin a channel of communication with Islamabad between October and December last year ultimately saw the Pathankot terror attack and the subsequent failure of Pakistan's civilian authorities to back their words on having friendship with India, it became imperative for PM Modi to look to other avenues to explore and that option was more about isolating Pakistan.
The reaching out to Iran and Afghanistan over the last few months has shown that Modi now might be in a mood to lose patience. Hence those words: "Who to talk to in Pakistan?"
Only Nawaz Sharif has shown an intent for freindship with India
The only quarter from where Modi's proactive diplomacy vis-à-vis Pakistan has found a positive response is that of his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. The latter, who underwent an open heart surgery recently and is recovering in the UK, had attended Modi's oath-taking ceremony and is eager to take forward the momentum.
He might be eager to finish off the task which had remained incomplete in 1999 when he was toppled by the military.
Sharif has also shown an intent this time to co-exist with the military leadership while reciprocating to Modi. This is by far the most difficult task of balancing for the Pakistani premier but much depends on its success or failure.
Pakistan's political future is not easy to predict and given the two neighbours uncompromising positions on Kashmir issue and terrorism, a great difficulty lies in finding the common meeting point, which Modi described in the interview as a major pursuit of foreign policy.
Are we again going back to square one? After Modi's focused words and Aziz's response, the possibility can not be ruled out.