NSA talks in Bangkok: Indo-Pak’s ‘neutral venue diplomacy’ a welcome step

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India and Pakistan are now trying innovative ways to take forward their bilateral engagements, thanks to the ruckus created by the extremist and fanatic elements in these parts of the world.

The four-hour meeting between the national security advisors (NSAs) of the two neighbours in Bangkok, Thailand, on Sunday where issues like terrorism and Kashmir were discussed is the latest example of the two sides preferring a ‘neutral venue diplomacy' to overcome resistance in the subcontinent.

Pakistan & India

The foreign secretaries of the two countries-S Jaishankar and Aizaz Ahmed-also joined Indian NSA Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Nasir Janjua at the meeting which was decided upon on Thursday, as has been reported in the media.

It was said the two sides chose a neutral venue to avoid repetition of events that had led to the cancellation of visit of former Pakistani NSA Sartaj Aziz to New Delhi for talks in August.

The development had imperilled the consensus that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif had arrived in Ufa in Russia during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in July.

It's a positive irrespective of criticism

Although the Opposition Congress made a routine criticism of the meeting, saying it produced little encouragement and was a tactic by the Modi government to divert the attention from the political and economic challenges the country is facing, but that is more for the sake of it.

For those who still think Modi hasn't been able to chalk out a consistent Pakistan policy, the Bangkok diplomacy should act as an eye-opener. Things need to begin somewhere at some time and the meeting made that beginning.

Both countries remained loyal to engagement

Both sides deserve a pat on their backs for being loyal to their stands that were decided on in Ufa. The meeting between Modi and Sharif on the sidelines of the Paris summit last month was brief but certainly not just a photo opportunity, as has been proved by the NSA meeting.

When things looked uncertain after the August talks were cancelled and the Modi regime faced the danger of going down in history as one of the most inefficient one in tackling Pakistan, the Doval-Janjua talks renewed hopes.

No obstacles like in South Asia

Secondly, the talks held in a neutral venue meant the hindrances that are found in the subcontinent, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, were absent.

The August talks were cancelled over the meeting of the Pakistani NSA with the separatist leaders of the region, leading to a huge media uproar. This time, the greater purpose was served.

Both sides softened their stands

Thirdly, the meeting suggested that the otherwise stubborn neighbours softened their stand to make the talks happen, which again reflects the genuine intention of both Modi and Sharif to improve the bilateral talks.

The NSAs spoke on terrorism and the Kashmir issue from the angle of terror. That the sides focussed on terror (not Pakistan's favourite topic) and Kashmir (not India's) signify that both sides de-escalated, which is a good sign.

No harmful media noise

Fourthly, the occasion escaped the media that creates more noise than substance and hence went right.

The patriotic Indian media often poses the biggest obstacle to the process of reviving dialogue between the two countries, causing a bigger harm to peace in the subcontinent. That the Doval-Janjua meeting came to the light only after it was over benefitted the confidence-building measures of both countries.

Scopes now for more engagement

Finally, the NSA talks have now opened up scopes for more engagement. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is already set to visit Islamabad for the conference on Afghanistan and Modi could also visit Pakistan for the Saarc Summit next year.

These successive initiatives for reviving the dialogue process, which is essential for long-term peace notwithstanding the problems, now look easy only after the NSAs made the primary move.

Indo-Pak cricket should also see a successful neutral venue model at play

The two countries are also mulling a similar ‘third venue' model in cricket, thanks to the threat by Shiv Sena against holding bilateral series on the Indian soil. The two boards are in talks over holding a series in Sri Lanka to avoid all problems.

Though India is yet to confirm the move and there are reactions from the Pakistani side, but trying the diplomacy model in the game will also serve the two countries' interests in a big way.

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