JUST as Pakistans Foreign Secretary-level led delegation left for talks with India, in Pakistan the symbolism was negative. Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied the news, along with the Indians, but there is a strong sense that the composition of the Pakistani delegation was changed under Indian pressure. The message coming from the Indian side was strong and clear: that they were not prepared to discuss the crucial issue of water at the dialogue. So the Pakistan government, marking a total surrender to India on the agenda effectively even before talks have begun, dropped the water expert from the delegation. The message that has, therefore, gone out to the Pakistani nation is that the Pakistan government has conceded to the Indians on the agenda and format of the talks. So India has already created a psychological advantage for itself before the talks commence. And we know how important positioning is in diplomacy, especially where there is a dialogue amongst two antagonists. Nor is this all. Far more important is the issue of what exactly will be discussed at this dialogue. Despite Pakistan claiming that it will only talk if the composite dialogue is restarted, it has again given in on this substantive point because India has made it clear that it is in no mood to start this mutually-agreed-to dialogue. So again India has gained a negotiating advantage prior to the dialogue beginning. In fact some commentators, known for their Indocentric views, have already written the composite dialogues obituary. They claim that new issues have arisen and point to Afghanistan and sharing of waters. However, there seems to be a problem of amnesia here because the composite dialogue contains a basket relating to security issues, even though, given how India shares no border with Afghanistan, it is not viable nor tenable for Pakistan to discuss Afghanistan bilaterally with India. Also, the waters issue already has a conflict resolution mechanism built into the Indus Waters Treaty. And, in any case, if Kashmir is resolved the water issue will resolve itself. So, if anything, it has become even more essential for Kashmir to remain central to the bilateral dialogue since as the core issue from which all other conflicts stem, its resolution is crucial for peace to be established in the subcontinent. So for Pakistan the most essential requirement is to ensure that it only go into a dialogue process with India where its core interests are also central to the talks. Presently, that has been compomised by Pakistan as India has ridden roughshod over not only the agenda of the dialogue but also the composition of the Pakistani delegation. Under these conditions, and with India now seeking to totally rid itself of the composite dialogue framework, it may have served Pakistans long term interests better if our government had given a more measured response to Indias questionable offer of a dialogue and waited till the agenda had been decided more clearly and through mutual consultation and agreement.