As the proposed Pak-India NSA level talks have been formally canceled, the much-hyped ‘resumed peace process’ between the two countries, initiated by the ‘icebreaking’ Nawaz-Modi meeting at Ufa in Russia last month, has eventually turned out to be mere a damp squib. Over-sensitive about the occupied state of Kashmir, India made it quite clear that neither the Kashmir issue would be included in the agenda of proposed talks nor Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz would be allowed to meet Hurriyat leaders during his stay in India. Later at the eleventh hour, instantly rejecting these two pre-conditions set by India, Pakistan chose to call off the intended talks.

In a joint statement issued at Ufa meeting last month, both countries formally agreed to hold a meeting between the National Security Advisors of two countries in New Delhi to “discuss all issues connected to terrorism”. Therefore, in a way, India was justified to object the inclusion of Kashmir Issue in the intended talks. Logically, two NSA’s are supposed to talk about the security related issues instead of discussing the complex issue of Kashmir. Obviously this issue is beyond the ambit and mandate of the National Security Advisor of either country.

However, India’s second pre-condition, denying a meeting between the Pakistani delegation and Huyyiat leaders in New Delhi, is simply deplorable. In the past, there has been no such restriction on the visiting Pakistani dignitaries in India. They have been allowed to freely meet various Kashmiri leaders during their stay in India. The current restriction imposed by India is certainly against the recognized diplomatic protocols and etiquettes in the world. Regrettably, now it looks that there is no place for diplomatic niceties and courtesies in the international relations of India. In fact, All Hurriyat leaders are peaceful activists. Infringing the fundamental rights of any peaceful citizen, without any legal justification, is also against the spirit of universally recognized human rights.

As a matter of fact, right from issuing of joint communique in Ufa to the current announcement of cancellation of bilateral talks, observably there have been many inconsistencies, flaws and shortcomings in the diplomatic decision-making, planning and maneuvering of Pakistan. First of all, the very decision made by Pakistan to resume dialogue with India at once was somehow erroneous. India proactively decided the timing, agenda and modus operandi for the prosed bilateral talks. On the other hand, as usual, Pakistan was there to respond reactively in compliance with Indian wishes. Therefore, in Pakistan, the Ufa joint communique was severely criticized on various grounds. Indeed, this communique was the ‘original sin’ committed by Pakistan, for which it has to face current diplomatic humiliation. Now, the lack of statesmanship and diplomatic wisdom on the part of Pakistani negotiators while drafting this communique is quite observable.

The issue of terrorism has been the central theme of the Ufa Joint statement. In this statement, it was declared “both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate this menace from South Asia”. Similarly, “both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples”. For this purpose, it was agreed that the NSA’s of both countries would meet in New Delhi. Besides, terrorism, both countries also agreed to make a decision for release of fishermen in each other’s custody within a period of 15 days. Both countries also pledged to promote religious tourism.

Strangely, there was no any mention of the word ‘Kashmir’ in the entire communique. Ironically, the very issue, which Pakistan did not bother to mention in the joint communique, has readily overshadowed all the bilateral plans devised by both countries in accordance with this communique. What plausible justification does our foreign policy mangers have for this absurdity? When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited India to attend swearing-in ceremony of PM Nerada Modi last year, he did not met Kashmiri leaders there. Now, Pakistan’s ‘principled stand’ regarding the intended meeting between its NSA and Hurriyat leaders is not understandable.

In fact, it was rather an inappropriate decision made by Pakistan to choose a bilateral forum to resolve the issue of terrorism in the country. For a long time, Pakistan has been blaming India for fanning nationalist sentiments and aiding armed separatists in Baluchistan. Now, it is also accusing Indian intelligence RAW of planning and sponsoring various acts of terrorism in the country. After a long time, Pakistan has decided to diplomatically maneuver against this alleged foul play of India. Recently, it has also announced to raise this issue on all potential international forums, including the UN. Therefore, there was no rationale for instantly changing this policy by taking this issue to a bilateral forum after issuing a joint communique at Ufa. Similarly, for this single purpose, there was hardly required a formal bilateral forum. Pakistan could easily hand over its dossier, containing the evidence regarding Indian interference in the country, through any normal diplomatic channel.

Besides exposing the stubborn behavior exhibited by India, the recent Pak-India dialogue fiasco necessarily reflects the miserable state of Pakistan’s foreign policy in general, and pathetic quality of its diplomacy in particular. The formulators and mangers of Pakistan’s foreign policy have miserably failed to formulate any proactive foreign policy to precisely articulate its national interests, and effectively propagate its national agenda in the world. Similarly, they have also failed to use the diplomacy as an effective tool to protect Pakistan’s vital security and strategic interests in this region. There have been so many misconceived ideas and poorly executed plans vis-à-vis the external policy of Pakistan. The recent Pakistan’s so-called Afghan peace initiatives have badly failed, as they were simply inconsistent and incompatible with the ground realities and geo-strategic perspective of the region.

At present, Pakistan is running its foreign affairs without a full-time cabinet-level foreign minister. Assisted by a special assistant and an advisor, the Prime Minister is retaining the portfolio of ministry of foreign affairs. Mr. Sartaj Aziz, an economist par excellence, is heading this important ministry in the capacity of special advisor to PM. He is also the current NSA of Pakistan. Certainly a catastrophe will be inevitable when an octogenarian, inactive and non-expert individual simultaneously tries to run two important state institutions. This fact also shows the resolution and seriousness on the part of government to improve the state and quality of both our National Security as well as foreign policy.

Positively, the recent Pak-India talks fiasco has also necessarily proved that Kashmir is the core issue between the two South Asian neighbours. Now it has been realized that no country either ignore, or otherwise sideline this crucial issue. Without resolving this issue, there can be no durable peace in this region. Both countries cannot foster trade ties by merely granting MFN status to each other. Nor can they even discuss or resolve other bilateral disputes. At the same time, it also shows that the long-pursued policy based on so-called bilateralism has failed to yield any positive result. Now, both countries seriously need to evolve another effective dispute-resolution mechanism to peacefully settle their long-standing unresolved mutual disputes.