Everyone has plans. Circumstances change. You adapt. Following a script is fine. It’s safer. But not when it has become irrelevant. Not when the plot has changed. Not when other characters are telling stories of their own. Then, sticking to the script is not such a good idea. It makes one look non-responsive, or overwhelmed, or unprepared. Not exactly the sort of characteristics that should ever be attributable to people in power. But, that’s precisely the PML-N way. At home or outside, it keeps its head buried under the sand. What does it expect? That reality will change if ignored? That its silence will be reciprocated with silence from others? It doesn’t work. Never has, never will.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made the right decision in visiting India to attend his counterpart’s swearing in ceremony. It made sense, since establishing friendly ties with India is a cornerstone of his government’s foreign and economic policy, to an extent. Modi invited, Nawaz accepted. He had replied positively to a seemingly positive gesture. So far, so good. During the meeting which took place between the two premiers in Hyderabad House, Nawaz was presented with a list of ‘demands’; mostly regarding cross-border terrorism. All of a sudden, he wasn’t the kind-hearted guest anymore who could’ve just as easily rejected the invitation. It was time for business. That is fine too. After all, the purpose of the visit in general and the meeting in particular, was to become familiar with the prevalent thinking in Modi’s camp. Once you know who you’re dealing with, you can strategise accordingly.

But, this is where it all went wrong: after the meeting, the Prime Minister decided not to shed any light on the discussion that had taken place behind closed doors. He repeated his message of peace, love and trade. By doing so, he left himself at the mercy of the Indian Foreign Secretary, who was anything but kind when she spoke afterwards. It was revealed that the Pakistani PM had been “conveyed” that his country should not allow its territory to be used for carrying out acts of terrorism in India or elsewhere. Ms Sujatha Singh went on to read similar other demands had been made. Whether Pakistan made any demands of its own, we don’t know since the PM never revealed anything. The resulting impression is this: Modi has clearly informed Pakistan of what he expects. Pakistan didn’t ask for anything. Be it Kashmir or issues concerning water, Pakistan was mute. Painting this picture depended on Nawaz’s lack of response as much as Modi’s knack for political maneuvering. Let this serve as a valuable lesson for the PML-N government; when you don’t adapt to changing circumstances, you suffer consequences.