New Delhi : The brief handshake and unscripted meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Paris last week appears to have been warm enough to shrug off the frost between the two hostile neighbours. Within days of that meeting the two National Security Advisers have met in Bangkok, and a joint statement issued by them left no one in doubt that the talking process has indeed begun.
The statement said: “Pursuant to the meeting of the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan in Paris, the NSAs, accompanied by the Foreign Secretaries, met in Bangkok today. Discussions were held in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere. They were guided by the vision of the two leaders for a peaceful stable and prosperous South Asia. Discussions covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues, including tranquility along the LoC. It was agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement.” Now this Bangkok meeting also clears the way for the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to travel to Islamabad this week to attend a multilateral conference on Afghanistan.
This ‘sudden breakthrough’ in which National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Nasir Janjua also discussed peace and security and other issues, including tranquility along the LoC, marks a major shift in the Modi government’s strategy on Pakistan. It has come in the backdrop of the fact that the two sides had engaged in mutual blame game earlier in September this year resulting in cancellation of the NSA-level talks and stalling of the interaction process as was agreed by Modi and Sharif in July in the Russian city of Ufa.
Questions would naturally be asked primarily by the opposition Congress as to what has changed on the ground for the Modi government to give up its earlier position. Congress leader Manish Tiwari has said that this is a ‘grand betrayal’ of the BJP’s own stand of not engaging with Pakistan unless cross border terrorism comes to a halt. However, apparently after sticking to a hardline for nearly 18 months, the Modi Sarkar seems to be keen to follow a different track and this may also result in a green signal for the stalled cricketing relations between India and Pakistan.