India-Pakistan NSA meeting: Talking terror in the midst of terror?


The warmth and bonhomie seen between the leaders of India and Pakistan in the Russian city of Ufa barely three weeks ago seem to be rapidly evaporating into thin air. The terror attack on a police station in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, blamed on Pakistan-based militants, and frequent ceasefire violations, along with mutual recriminations, have vitiated atmosphere between the two compulsively suspicious neighbours. But the redeeming news, amid the usual charges and counter-charges, is that the meeting between the National Security Advisers (NSAs) – the principle outcome of the Ufa meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on July 10 – hasn’t been derailed.  

In fact, India has proposed August 23-24 as dates for the meeting of NSAs, which is expected to focus on terror-related issues, said sources in Delhi. Confirming it, Pakistan’s NSA Sartaj Aziz said in Islamabad that a proposal for the National Security Advisors meeting  towards the end of August has been received by Islamabad. Pakistan has not yet confirmed the meeting and neither has any agenda for the meeting been set.

With Pakistan living in denial and India being accused of supporting insurgency in Balochistan by Pakistan, the environment has only worsened after the Ufa summit meeting which was expected to restart an incremental process of engagement. According to a statement released by Mr Aziz to Pakistan’s Parliament, Mr Sharif is expected to speak about India’s alleged involvement in Pakistan, an oblique reference to India’s alleged role in stoking insurgency in Baluchistan province.

Blame Game 

Holding the meeting between the NSAs in the midst of an increasingly noxious atmosphere in itself should be considered a courageous step by the Modi government, but given the current play of relations, one should have minimal expectations from this exercise. India is understood to be compiling detailed dossier on the involvement of Pakistani operatives in the recent Gurdaspur terror incident, and when the meeting happens India’s NSA Ajit Doval is expected to confront his Pakistani counterpart. But as it has so often happened in the past, Islamabad will be ready with its own diversionary games by resurrecting charges of Indian agencies’ involvement in stoking ethnic insurgency in Pakistan. The scenario is so depressingly predictable that one fails to understand the rationale of the NSAs meeting. If the idea was to keep talking and stay engaged with modest objectives, rather than disconnect, then it is still worth pursuing despite arguments to the contrary. But this strategy is hardly adequate to deal with terrorism that will continue to flow from across the border. Talking with Pakistan is one thing, but to protect its citizens from senseless assaults inspired by cynical power games from across the border, India must upgrade and bolster its security apparatus and counter-terror infrastructure to repulse such attacks.

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