Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

India resigned to ‘holding pattern’ with Pakistan

On the even of the Saarc summit in Bhutan, India and Pakistan are, as Dr. Seuss, would put it, still in The Waiting Place

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters?
Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place …

22 April 2010
The Hindu

India resigned to ‘holding pattern’ with Pakistan

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: With the SAARC summit only a week away, and India and Pakistan still unable to agree on talks about talks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of Thimphu will have the limited but important aim of preventing further deterioration in an already fraught relationship, Indian officials say.

“What we are really looking at is a holding pattern”, a senior official told The Hindu, using the aviation industry phrase for when an aircraft circles around an airport at a fixed altitude awaiting clearance to land. “It is clear that they are not ready to move forward. Nor, quite frankly, are we, until we see some movement on the issues we have raised”.

Pakistan wants nothing short of the resumption of the composite dialogue. It has refused to invite Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to make a return visit to Islamabad nearly two months after its foreign secretary, Salman Bashir, came to Delhi, unless India accepts this condition. On its part, India says resumption is not possible till more is done on the terrorism front but is willing to discuss “humanitarian and other issues”. Under the circumstances, said the official, the best Dr. Singh can hope for from his Bhutan meeting with Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is to keep alive the idea of engagement, even if Islamabad is not in a position to deliver on terrorism or discuss the possibility of incremental steps forward.

“It’s sad, really, because there are lots of little things that you could do together even now”, the official said. Indian proposals on enhancing cross-LoC trade have not been answered and meetings of business chambers from both sides have not been held. Though the Indian side has not helped matters with its non-tariff barriers, the official said Islamabad’s reluctance to let the chambers meet means solutions to the complaints of Pakistani businessmen cannot be found.

The official mentioned the ongoing visit to India of Pakistan’s population minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan. “We indicated to them that if they wanted, we were ready to build in some political content to her visit. But they were not interested. Our sense is that nobody in their system wants to take the risk of engaging with India”, he said. The official also mentioned Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik’s recent meeting with visiting Indian journalists. “He was willing to brief them on how the trial of 26/11 suspects has progressed. But [Indian high commissioner] Sharad [Sabharwal] has not heard from him about this since September.”

But if the prospect for gains in Thimphu is close to zero, not meeting Mr. Gilani, or meeting him too perfunctorily, could actually damage relations between the two countries, another official said, explaining the Prime Minister’s dilemma. The Pakistani side has a similar assessment of what is at stake. Neither side is looking for a joint statement but some minimum preparation is considered necessary. “Both of us know the drill”, the senior official said. Asked for his assessment, a senior Pakistani diplomat said it was likely that the two foreign secretaries would hurriedly sit down before their principals meet to sketch out the ground rules.

3 comments on “India resigned to ‘holding pattern’ with Pakistan

  1. injamaven
    June 5, 2010

    Arundhati Roy looks anorectic in the above photo. And she has been so beautiful.

  2. Anonymous
    April 27, 2010

    It would be more intellectually honest to just come out and say that the victims of Mumbai are of little or no consequence in the greater priority of fixing Indo-Pak dynamic.

    Why don't you just come out and say it?

    Other than a few “foreign policy experts” does anybody in India notice or care that there is a “chill” between Indian and Pakistan?

  3. foolsparadise
    April 26, 2010

    See, I understand, (you bought this idea a couple of times & sounded in favor of exploring all othe options) but, (my 0.2 Rs) thats the only way its being dealt. The pressure of composite dialog is coming from Pak-army to gain something (face value at least) to be some what vindicated in the event of “yet another 26/11” which is well within preparations. The dilemma on Indian side is “what next” (apart from stop talking) to show their “displeasure” knowing war is no option, would you really explore surgical strikes??(a question who's answer is NO, as you don't want to get in to a mess and be a party to it)
    But this above argument is made thinking of other side first and if you reverse that thought:

    Their is hopefully a “holding pattern” already defined & tested but what if you are almost 100% sure, that you won't be given a go to land for next 3 Hrs, what would you do? you check your fuel and take a flight to next nearest airport and land there (& wait there to comeback or make it an alternative airport or make it a permanent airport not to never land back on previous airport at all 🙂 )..

    How about “Not Thinking” as next level of “Not Taking”??

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This entry was posted on April 22, 2010 by in Indian Foreign Policy, Pakistan.



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