While the Indian and Pakistani cricket teams gear up to face each other in the cricket field, the rivalry seems to be carrying over among their counterparts in the foreign offices as well. On International Peace day, New Delhi decided to go against the day’s message of tolerance and cooperation, as it called off a meeting scheduled between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), just a day after confirming the development.

As seen by the letter written by India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson, this was not just an ordinary small hurdle in developments but a clearly aggressive move by India meant to display a hostile message. The wordings in the letter are extremely harsh and reactionary with phrases thrown around like “unclean intentions” and “evil agendas”.

Where is this aggression coming from and what does it mean? Maybe we should give a benefit of a doubt to the BJP and assume that this rhetoric does not mean anything other than populist pre-election strategy. Unlike in Pakistani politics, where Indian issues have never been a strong talking point, in India, bashing Pakistan and furthering anti-Pakistan rhetoric has been a strategy that unfortunately wins votes. Perhaps the fact that India initially accepted Pakistan’s offer for a meeting indicates that the Modi government might not be completely hostile to a conciliatory approach; it just does not deem it feasible a few months before the elections. The untimely withdrawal of the acceptance of talks by the Indian government, which was right after outrage by the Congress party and other rivals, could mean that this was just a U-turn on a controversial decision. Perhaps India is not so different from us after all.

Regardless, we commend the Pakistani government for making the effort and reaching out to India for conciliation. This situation shows how despite the best intentions a diplomatic breakthrough will be difficult. It is thus important for our government not to give in to the hostile spirit of the Indian side, and still continue to strive for peace. Imran Khan’s tweet yesterday, where he mentioned “small men in big offices” in criticism of India’s response, was not the best tone we want to set while Pakistan is still portraying itself as taking the high road. India’s response paints India in a bad international light- Pakistan responding aggressively will also do itself damage and gives fodder to India to justify its hostility.