First the invitation from Modi, then the warm handshake at Modi’s oath-taking ceremony, followed by a shawl from Narendra Modi for Mr. Sharif’s mother and a sari in return from Nawaz Sharif for Mr. Modi’s mother. No, it does not stop here. After this there were warm words that were said by both the prime ministers on social media and also via physical letters.
What is going on here? Are the two rivals who have fought multiple wars warming to each other? Will the years old animosity finally be over?
Don’t speak to soon! I would say. Yes, diplomats on both sides are in conversation but the next step that was promised by both leaders that their foreign secretaries would meet is still to materialize and now that Ramadan is upon us, this certainly means further delay.
Although analysts were speculating that Modi’s staunch nationalist Hindu support base could make it easier for him to hash out a deal with Pakistan, it has been more than a month since the warm handshake at Mr. Modi’s inauguration and other than the exchange of gifts for each other’s mothers, there is little else to show after that.
Newspapers have started to speculate that back channel talks are under way but both countries are quick to dismiss these rumors. This does not really rule out that secret talks are not underway, though.
What is heartening is that, secret talks or no secret talks, there seems to be a positive attitude towards creating a better atmosphere seen on both sides. But what seems to be missing is an early breakthrough.
India’s perspective is that there is no need for any further talks presently since a roadmap had already been agreed to two years ago which focuses on the easier task of boosting economic ties.
According to India, the ball is now in Pakistan’s court. They want Pakistan to set things in motion for more goods to be transported via the Wagah border, which the Indians believe will allow them to reciprocate.
Islamabad has a wider perspective to the whole situation. We claim that we are working on opening up Wagah but according to our people, the road map is one of the many key points that will need to be discussed when the foreign secretaries meet. If, they meet!
Still a Long Way to Go
Although it seems that the tone and body language is positive, the white elephants in the room have not gone away; namely the issue of Kashmir and the terrorism that both countries claim the other one sponsors in their land.
It is common knowledge that Pakistani’s and Indians are “siblings” and that a lot of our traditions and even our languages have common roots, but there still doesn’t seem to be an easy answer for the decades old rivalry; even though Mr. Modi’s “Ma” has a new Sari and Mr. Sharif’s “Ammi” her new shawl.