There was a last-minute flurry, and the meeting between the Indian and Pakistani National Security Advisers that had been agreed at Ufa by their Prime Ministers, was cancelled, because India objected to something that had virtually become a ritual, and which would probably have had no effect on the talks.

The cause was supposed to be the Indian government’s objection to Pakistan’s National Security Adviser meeting leaders of the All-Parties Hurriyet Conference at a reception at the Pakistan High Commission. The substance of the meeting was not the problem; rather it was the meeting’s taking place at all. Once again, the Indian government seemed bent on refusing to recognise that the core issue between the two countries was the Kashmir issue.

The BJP government has been used to throw its weight around generally, the latest example being Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s success in obtaining land for a temple in Dubai. The success, with a traditional ally of Pakistan, may have encouraged a harking back to Modi’s origins as Chief Minister of Gujarat, where he began his tenure with a massive bloodletting of Muslims, in the 2009 riots there. Modi seems to be following the same policy on the national stage, now with Pakistan as the stick-figure to attack, so that he can keep happy the Hindutva hordes that voted him to power.

Kashmir is troublous, for in the Indian state elections, it failed to fall in with Modi’s plans for it, and the BJP failed to take the seats it was supposed to. Pakistan is not supposed to raise the subject, even though it is the core issue between the two countries Meeting the APHC leaders would have just been an opportunity for them to vent to a senior Pakistani official about the shortcomings of Pakistani policy, but clearly India does not even want that to happen. It wants to maintain a narrative in which Jammu and Kashmir is a peaceful part of India, and the APHC leaders are puppets on Pakistani strings, who take their instructions publicly, at the Pakistani High Commission.

Modi has apparently not solved the problem of how to negotiate with Pakistan, while appearing obdurate and uncompromising. After the peremptory summons to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend his oath-taking, Modi has found himself dealing with a Pakistan that is willing to go the extra mile, but unable to sell the Kashmiri people down the river, as the BJP would dearly wish it would.

However, the new Indian prickliness has mostly manifested itself over Kashmir. For example, India created a fuss about Pakistan hosting the Commonwealth Parliamentary Union moot because the speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was not invited. The IPU moot was shifted to New York.

The Indian forces have also been firing on the Working Boundary, to the extent that they have been killing Sialkoti villagers every now and then. This deadly business represents the only occasion, not involving the USA, that nuclear powers have faced each other across a land border. (The USA faced the USSR across the entire European border between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and even now, it faces North Korea across the 38th Parallel, which marks the North Korea-South Korea split.) The world would like to see some de-escalation of tensions, preferably with a resolution of the Kashmir issue.

That might well recognise that the core issue is Kashmir, but there is a parallel desire that such a settlement be in India’s favour. Pakistan wants a solution in line with the wishes of the Kashmiri people, because it expects those aspirations to lie with accession to Pakistan, but such a solution also has the advantage of being the only one, which will be lasting. India wants a solution in line with its own illegal actions, hoping apparently that if only it can hold on to Kashmir for long enough, no matter how illegally, it will be able to give that occupation the patina of custom. The problem with such a policy is that it will not be long-lasting, as it does not meet the aspirations of the Kashmiri people, and condemns them either to oppression or annihilation.

Pakistan has had a policy of internationalising the conflict. The problem is the one it now faces. The international community (which means the USA) does want an Indo-Pak solution, but on any terms. At the moment, because India has been cozying up to the USA and other Western powers, that means on Indian terms. The US reaction, that the two countries should talk, reflects both the concern that the conflict could become nuclear and that the settlement take place on Indian terms. The real problem for Pakistan is that the USA does not need a permanent solution, just one that pushes aside the problem and makes sure there isn’t a nuclear war. Therein may lie the problem: certainly India, and even Pakistan, may be talking to satisfy the USA, not because it is necessary, and thus may be building in failure.
The BJP should not have as much difficulty talking as it is having. This is the second cancellation of talks since the BJP took office, meaning that it is refusing to talk to Pakistan. That means it is refusing to talk to a neighbour, which is the most populous after Bangladesh. It is as if India wants Pakistan to be in the same relationship with India as Bangladesh: subordinate, silent, and certainly without anything like the Kashmir dispute with India.

The latest cancellation has been followed by India announcing its refusal to play cricket with Pakistan. That might well be the relevant metaphor for the relationship. India is emerging as a major power, or at least pretending to. It was perhaps inevitable that the model for it should be the USA, which is brash and thinks it can do anything. Thus it would like to triumph in team sports as well. It thus dislikes being beaten in cricket. It dislikes it even more now that it has tasted some success recently.

One view of India is that it is now not willing to talk, and that it may be better for Pakistan to wait for a different party to be in government. That is not a particularly bright hope, for apart from the possibility that Modi may be there for the long haul, there is also the likelihood that the alternative will be the Congress, which is almost as chauvinistic as the BJP. Unless an Indian government comes to office which realises, or has been made to realise, that the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people will be denied no more, Pakistan will not benefit from any change of government in New Delhi. The BJP may think it has drawn a line in the sand for Pakistan, but actually, it has drawn it for the Kashmiri people. Unfortunately, that means more oppression, more suffering for them. While trying to strut on the world stage, India has forgotten that it is at the cost of the suffering of the Kashmiri people.