According to union minister Nirmala Sitharaman, National Security Adviser-level talks between India and Pakistan are to take place “as expected later this month” in Delhi despite two recent incidents that have been reported by the media as terrorist attacks emanating from Pakistan. Ms Sitharaman, who had been sworn in as a minister of state with independent charge of Commerce and Industry and as a minister of state for Finance and Corporate Affairs, had been answering questions from the press at the BJP headquarters in Delhi on Saturday.
Though no dates have been specified for the NSA-level meeting, confirmation that New Delhi would stick to the programme announced after the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers met on the sidelines of a regional summit in Ufa, Russia, last month raises hopes that other measures their foreign secretaries had outlined in a joint statement will also follow – notably meetings between their Directors General of Military Operations, and the chiefs of their respective border forces. For Kashmir, prompt follow-up in this vein is of particular importance in view of the often deadly exchanges of fire across the frontiers and the jingoistic rhetoric they spark off at the political level.
That New Delhi has not reacted in haste and pique as it did in calling off foreign secretary-level talks last year when the Pak envoy in Delhi met Hurriyat leaders from Kashmir must certainly have eased concerns in many quarters viewing regular escalations between the two countries with alarm.
Given the intricate and entangled nature of relations between the two countries, as well as the issues between them, progress on their most serious contentions can only come gradually, with sustained effort and patience. The latter, particularly, have necessarily to be informed with extreme degrees of restraint by leaderships in both countries against succumbing to what are euphemistically described as compulsions of domestic politics.
Both are battling critical questions at home, questions that have exacted a deadly toll in one case, and begun to pose an identical existential challenge in the other so far secure in the idea on which it had been conceived. The choice for the leaderships is one of stark survival, and it depends on the good sense they bring to bear to renew and then persist with an undoubtedly arduous process of shunning acrimony, point-scoring and mass hysteria. Whipping up passions may fetch votes, in the short term, but that has rarely ever solved problems requiring calm and rational approaches.