Sartaj Aziz has laid down a tough line to the Indian diplomatic side. Speaking to an Indian newspaper, the Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs said “Our position is very clear. India called off the NSA-level dialogue last month and the request for any meeting must come from India. It has to take the initiative now”. Admittedly, his frustrated tone and the government’s stance are both quite understandable, and many view them as completely justified. The Indian government has set crippling conditions to any dialogue, effectively ensuring that they fail before they even begin, and has used a stubborn, illogical justification to cancel dialogue twice – an action that can only be dubbed petty. The declaration that India must be the one to initiate dialogue, and that too with real intent this time, is definitely warranted; but perhaps a little more pragmatism was required here. By sticking to a hard and fast condition – that India must initiate – Pakistan is exhibiting the same stubborn stance that India has maintained for years. Shifting the burden of the peace process on India would surely relive the pressure on the government, but it owes it to the civilians caught in the crossfire at the borderlands to continue to talks, at least until the cross border violation stop.

As long as the border remains in the grips of unrest, the government must make every effort to simmer things down. A volatile eastern border detracts from manpower, resources and effort required on the western border, especially when the military operation is in its critical final phase. Much more immediately, the constant stream of injured bodies and disrupted villages should concern the government. Only engagement can stop this tit for tat exchange – and for that one side has to look past hollow machismo. Even if the government maintains its stance on higher level diplomatic talks, it must continue engagement on security and military levels. Although they never last permanently, meetings between border security officers from both sides has always bought a small measure of respite. This engagement must continue, perhaps one day both sides would stumble upon a workable solution to the cross border violations.

The stance taken by the government is merited, but it favours Indian interests most. In all diplomatic engagements, Pakistan has been the one pushing the Kashmir issue while India only wanted to talk terrorism and trade. It has always avoided the Kashmir question, and giving the onus to India to initiate dialogue have given them the perfect opportunity to avoid it even more. Pakistan must push this agenda, and it cannot do that by stubbornly backing out because the other side is being unreasonable – that should be expected in any case.