Jalees Hazir Once again, India has deemed it appropriate to talk to Pakistan. This time it has suggested open-ended talks focusing on terrorism and security-related issues, instead of the broader composite dialogue that it called off in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks in 2008. Considering Indias track record on talks with Pakistan, the present initiative comes across as yet another excuse to put the burning issues souring Pak-India relations on the backburner. So as India joins the American 'do more mantra on terrorism, and refuses to talk about anything else until it is satisfied on that count, we are expected not to bring to the discussion bilateral issues that are of grave concern to the state and people of Pakistan. To the longstanding issue of Kashmir have been added increasing violations of the Indus Water Treaty and evidence of Indian involvement in the unrest in FATA and Balochistan, but our neighbour thinks that these issues can wait until we have conclusively put the genie of terrorist groups back in the bottle and it has been certified by India. Should Pakistan allow itself to be bullied into this recent trap of talks? Or are there other options? It is interesting that news of these new talks came as Pakistan observed a national holiday in solidarity with the Kashmiri people. For decades, Pakistan had refused to hold talks with India on other matters until the core issue of Kashmir, at the heart of Pak-India discord, was addressed and resolved. At the summit that marked Vajpayees US-sponsored bus diplomacy in 1999, the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to initiate Confidence Building Measures like people-to-people contact and trade in order to create a conducive environment for resolution of bigger disputes. The composite dialogue initiated by Musharraf and Vajpayee in 2004 was also a watering down of Pakistans Kashmir-first policy. The idea vociferously pushed by India was to tackle the whole spectrum of bilateral issues so that normalisation of relations between the two countries is not held hostage by the difficulty of making progress on the disputed territory. It was hoped that as progress is made on lesser disputes, it would give impetus for progress on Kashmir. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. As we saw trade volume and frequency of buses increasing between the two countries, there was little progress on the ground as far as Kashmir is concerned. After agreeing to certain steps in the composite dialogue, India has found it convenient to go back on its pledges and continue its policy of state-repression in the disputed state on one pretext or the other. Under Musharraf, Pakistan toned down its principled stand demanding self-determination for Kashmiris in a plebiscite conducted by the UN and took steps to rein in the militant groups from Pakistan. But these conciliatory measures were not reciprocated by India that has dragged its feet on cutting down the number of its troops deployed there and creating a mechanism for including the Kashmiri leadership in the bilateral talks, to search for a viable solution to the issue. Even on other important issues within the ambit of the composite dialogue like Siachin and Sir Creek, the Indian strategy has been to keep the talks in a limbo, opening up settled points anew and frustrating any hope for a meaningful outcome. And now it would like to put aside any progress that might have been made in the composite dialogue despite these difficulties and start a brand new round of open-ended talks, whatever that is supposed to mean. Obviously, India has used the composite dialogue to show to the world that it is a reasonable and responsible state without making a sincere effort at finding mutually acceptable solutions to its bilateral disputes with Pakistan. It has actually pushed for its 'wish list vis--vis Pak-India relations without paying any attention to Pakistans concerns. In fact, under the cover of normalisation of relations, it has gone on to take steps to squeeze Pakistan further. Instead of making any effort to allay the fears of Pakistan regarding the building of dams on river Jehlum, it has announced projects on the Chenab as well, creating strong doubts about its sincerity to the Indus Water Treaty. Evidence that its numerous consulates on the Pak-Afghan border are supporting disturbances in FATA and Balochistan, has also come forth. The present initiative is seen as an attempt by India to ease the pressure of the international community for resumption of talks with Pakistan, rather than a sincere desire on its part at finding solutions to serious problems between the two countries. This calls for a more diplomatically suave response from Pakistan than rushing into the proposed talks. Surely, friendship with India should amount to more than watching Indian movies in Pakistani cinemas, playing cricket matches and eating their onions. Even if India agrees to Pakistans demand of resumption of the composite dialogue rather than the proposed open-ended talks focusing on terrorism, not much can be expected from it in the present context. It is clear that the Indian government has one thing on its mind right now; a crackdown on Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Muhammad, militant outfits that it says are being nurtured by Pakistan to target India. It has shown an aversion to talk about its involvement in FATA and Balochistan, about its controversial dams or progress on Kashmir. Obviously, dialogue is only meaningful if it is a two-way street. Besides, the issue of militant groups blamed by India is a part of the much bigger problem of terrorism that Pakistan is confronted with. It is also clear that these militants are strengthened by what India does in Kashmir, and a just solution to the dispute acceptable to the Kashmiri people will take the winds out of their sail. Two well-meaning neighbours can sit down and find a solution to their problems through talks. At the same time, there is no point in talking to a bully bent upon undermining its perceived victim and getting its way, all the way. Rather than being too obsessed with normalising its relations with India according to the American script, Pakistan would do well by strengthening ties with its other neighbours. In time, this might be the best course for improving relations with the bully next door. The writer is a freelance columnist.