It is strange, bordering on the ridiculous, that President Asif Ali Zardari should be inviting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan every time a high Pakistani official has the opportunity to meet him, knowing full well that he would get Dr Singh’s standard rebuff; his arrogant demand for the custody of those it charges of involvement in the Mumbai tragedy as a precondition. But the Indians simply do not bother about furnishing with us any evidence against Hafiz Saeed, one of the main accused, that could prove sustainable in a court of law and that we have asking for to arrest him. As Adviser on Interior to the Prime Minister, Rehman Malik, who extended the invitation, told a gathering afterwards that though India kept asking for his custody it shied away from proffering any proof to implicate him.

Against this background, our leadership seem to be begging Mr Singh to grace them with his presence, throwing diplomatic caution and reserve to the wind. In the conduct of inter-state relations, formal consent of both the sides obtained through diplomatic channels is usually considered necessary before high-level visits are announced. That is especially so in the case of states which have disputes, with rigid positions on either side, between them to settle, as in the case of Pakistan and India. For a visit of a head of state or government to a country with long-standing hostility and want of trust, would signal a noteworthy breakthrough in their relations. The Indians, no doubt, have lately been talking of an improved climate of relations with Pakistan but their actions continue to speak for hostile intent. Refusal to resolve the core issue of Kashmir on the misconceived assumption that it is an integral part of India and going ahead with projects that tend to deprive Pakistan of its legitimate share of water as guaranteed under the Indus Waters Treaty are two glaring examples. And that is against the backdrop of the confidence building measures and other practical steps that Islamabad has been taking to demonstrate its sincerely about normalising relations with it. The grant of the MFN status to India, to the discomfiture of local industrialists and businessmen who see a sharp decline in their business as a result, is the concession that New Delhi has long been asking for. On its part, India has hardly made any move to show that the ice is melting except for grudgingly agreeing to some relaxation in the visa regime and the consent to allow the visit of Pakistan judicial commission to interrogate 40 Indian witnesses of the Mumbai massacre.

It was incomprehensible that Mr Malik would visit India and yet say that Kashmir and water disputes were not on his agenda. But despite that and his assurance that Pakistan wanted to let bygones be bygones the Indian media focused on playing up his comparison of the Mumbai attack with Babri Mosque demolition, adding it did not contribute to the improvement of bilateral relations. Unlike what Pakistani apologists for India would have us believe, there seems to be little shift in India’s attitude towards Pakistan; it is only we who are going all-out to please it, with little or nothing to show for it.