If the world is at “breaking point” in the fight against global warming, one would like to unreservedly share French President Francois Hollande’s optimism in his address to the opening session of the climate summit. Whether the Sharif-Modi meeting, also in the precincts of the summit in Paris, will help bring down political temperature in South Asia, one is only cautiously optimistic. Their meeting lasted just a few minutes, but the ambience it generated was enormous. Rich in optics, they warmly shook hands and their confab that emitted sufficiently warm animation has the right potential to pick up the threads. And, it was not a chance meeting; reports suggest as if the Indian prime minister was looking for his Pakistani counterpart. They had not met since their high-profile meeting on the sidelines of the SCO summit on July 10 this year in the Russian city of Ufa, and had decided to resume the peace process. But that was not to be, as the Indian establishment kept nurturing its traditional anti-Pakistan mindset by heating up the common borders. And that mindset refuses to relax. As if their prime minister’s animated talk with Nawaz Sharif was an act of deceptive diplomacy, the Indian officials say it was merely a “brief exchange of courtesies”. But that was not the case; Nawaz Sharif says it was a “good meeting”, but he could not divulge the contents. “If we really have positive sentiments for another [his impression of Modi’s move to search him out and meet] we must take practical steps towards their fulfilment,” he told media persons.
Even when Prime Minister Modi’s moves remain enigmatic to many even in his own country, it appears certain that the emerging ground realities, both in the Occupied Kashmir and Pak-India relationship, have begun to sink in with the Indian establishment. In Kashmir, the balance of power, both political and legal, is fast tilting against Modi-ism. Not even the entire Indian army can win against the militants, and Azad Kashmir is part of Pakistan, says ex-chief minister Farooq Abdullah. Then there is the verdict of the Srinagar high court which says ‘the territory of India-held Kashmir retains an element of sovereignty and cannot be integrated into India at all’. That India can browbeat Pakistan by brandishing threats of aggression was never the case, but more so now. It has picked up the gauntlet thrown down by the purveyors of ‘Cold Start’ and ‘Limited War’ by driving home the message that should Indian cross-border aggression would be checked and repulsed with tactical nuclear weapons. For all practical purposes, war with Pakistan is no more a viable option with New Delhi. So, it is no wonder that Narendra Modi appeared to want to meet Nawaz Sharif and explore ways and means to return to the negotiating table in the framework of unconditional talks Pakistan has offered.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with his counterpart on the eastern border may or may not be the ice-breaker that the region deserves, his meeting with President Ashraf Ghani, his counterpart on the western border, is With British Prime Minister David Cameroon acting as a sort of moderator the meeting on the sidelines of the climate summit is said to be held in an atmosphere of warmth and cordiality. Some of ground for President Ghani’s change of mood, if not heart yet, must have been influenced as much by a growing realisation that the decision to abandon the Murree peace process was unwise. He appeared to have conveyed such impression to his recent Pushtun guests from Pakistan. He is now ready to rejoin the Murree peace process and talk with all those who would enter the peace process as ‘legitimate political actors’ and act in line with the Kabul government’s desire for peace and not those ‘who refuse to take the path of peace’. This is almost the same qualification the Taliban interlocutors who met with Afghan officials in Murree, had and their status as such stands recognised by the United States and others, particularly China, who have interest in a peaceful Afghanistan. More on this however would be made public when President Ashraf Ghani comes to Islamabad to represent his country at the Heart of Asia Conference being held next week.