New Delhi, Apr 8: Was Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit speaking at variance with the official line on relations with India when he said that the bilateral "peace process is suspended", or was it said deliberately with the permission of Islamabad?
According to former envoys, Basit's statements are another example of Pakistan's "double-dealing", with one suggesting that Islamabad should "recall him for spoiling bilateral relations."
Both Prabhu Dayal, who has served in the Indian consulate of Karachi and recently released a book "Karachi Halwa", and Rajiv Dogra, India's former consul general in Karachi, say that the current impasse in relations and Basit's statements show that ties with Pakistan are not moving forward.
G Parthasarathy, India's former high commissioner to Pakistan, was more direct. "There are two categories of Pakistani diplomats, one reporting to the foreign office, and the other beholden to the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence). I regard Basit as belonging to the second category," Parthasarathy told IANS.
"Pakistan is not at all sincere about peace. Its game-plan has been to talk peace with us, while at the same time doing everything possible to pursue a proxy war with India and to hurt us in whichever manner possible," Dayal, who was India's Consul General in New York before retiring in 2013, told IANS.
"I am not at all surprised that Pakistanis have back-tracked on the peace talks, and they are not likely to become serious or sincere in this regard at any time in the near future," he said.
On Thursday Basit, speaking at an event here, said that the peace process between India and Pakistan were "suspended" and that the National Investigation Agency team from India could not go to Pakistan to probe the Pathankot attack.
"The Pakistan ambassador says whatever the foreign ministry tells him to. He will not say anything on his own; he represents the government of Pakistan and he cannot be saying anything at variance with their position," said Dayal, adding that Pakistan's policy has "always been double-faced, and this is another example of it".
Dogra termed Basit's statement that the peace process has been suspended as "perhaps the most undiplomatic statement that I have ever heard a diplomat make".
"You can say that negotiations are suspended, the talks are suspended; but to say that the peace process is suspended means that you are declaring war," Dogra said.
"So, should such a high commissioner be taken seriously?" he added.
He wondered whether the Pakistan High Commissioner and the government in Islamabad were playing good cop, bad cop. "He (Basit) keeps provoking India, and Islamabad plays a calming effect, tries to temper it down - whether by design or error," he Dogra said.
"And while Islamabad was giving the officialese (that India and Pakistan are in talks on holding talks), the high commissioner was giving his sentiments - maybe at the behest of someone or the other," he added.
To Basit saying that a NIA would not be allowed, the former diplomat said: "The high commissioner is so authoritatively saying there is no reciprocity, it can only mean that from the Pakistan side there was no confirmation of the conditions put in our letter (India's letter on allowing the Pakistan Joint Investigation Team)."
Asked where he saw the bilateral relations headed, Dogra, who has also served as India's Permanent Representative at the UN. said: "I don't think relations are headed on an upward swing. Unfortunately, the signals from Islamabad, and more particularly from the high commissioner in Delhi, are negative."
He said the latest developments are a "signal that its (Pakistan's) intentions are not exactly peace-like."
The problem, he said, was that "every time India tries to open the door, Pakistan slams it shut."
On Basit, the envoy said: "If Pakistan feels its high commissioner has stepped out of line and given a statement contrary to Pakistan's official stand, should it not reprimand him for spoiling relations, and even call him back."