After Pathankot, India must fight the disillusionment with talks

The Daily Fix: After Pathankot, India must fight the disillusionment with talks
Photo Credit: Narinder Nanu/AFP
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Above the fold: Top stories of the day

1. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told a Delhi court on Tuesday that he did not receive any money as chief of the Delhi and District Cricket Association.

2. The Centre has given the nod to quotas for women in paramilitary forces.

3. The Supreme Court has asked the government why it does not dump its fleet of five- to 10-year-old diesel vehicles to fight pollution in the national capital.

The Big Story: After Pathankot

Ten days after the surprise visit at Lahore, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif spoke on the phone and it was reportedly chilly. In the intervening days lay the nightmare of Pathankot and mounting proof that the attackers had been trained on Pakistani soil, used “Pakistan-made” equipment. Modi asked for “firm and immediate action” against the organisations behind the terror strike. Sharif assured “prompt and decisive action”. The verbal evidence would suggest both leaders are on the same page. But the foreign secretary-level talks scheduled for January 15, if they do take place at all, are likely to be more sombre than planned, recalibrated to a dramatically changed situation.

After Pathankot, a disillusionment with the diplomatic process has set in across the political spectrum in India. Hardliners believe themselves to be vindicated – the attack seems to prove that softening towards Pakistan is bound to invite terror. But even the most ardent supporters of dialogue seem disheartened with a political process that is high on hype and low on content. There is a growing sense of futility about engaging with the civilian establishment in Pakistan when other parts of the body politic are hostile to India. Once again, the conversation has returned to imposing conditions on talks, extracting costs from Pakistan.

The history of bilateral relations has always fluctuated between violent highs and lows. The Lahore bus ride was followed by Kargil, and the warmth at Ufa by intense cross-border firing at the Line of Control. What both countries need now is a mature leadership with a clear-eyed understanding of the odds and the political will to convince their domestic constituencies that dialogue is vital. Talks must continue, but if they are to retain credibility then expectations must be regulated. In a long and painful peace process, there are no easy solutions. But the doable must be done.

The Big Scroll on the big story of the day

Ajaz Ashraf argues that India should impose costs on Pakistan for spawning terror. Akash Banerjee on how, with Pathankot, India lost another chance to win the perception war.MK Bhadrakumar suggests that when it comes to diplomacy at a time of crisis, Modi should take a leaf out former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao’s book.

Politicking and policying

1. An MP’s complaint against Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s British citizenship has been referred to the ethics committee of the Lok Sabha, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader LK Advani.

2. Superintendent Salwinder Singh, allegedly abducted by the attackers at Pathankot and then set free, now faces sexual harassment charges.

3. Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan calls the Indian Science Congress a “circus”, vows never to attend it again.


1. In the Hindu, Nirupama Rao on how the India-Pakistan relationship is about getting past the burden of history.

2. In the Indian Express, Bikas Mishra on how India must make space for its artists in 2016, not ask them to “go to Pakistan”.

3. In the Business Standard, Ashok Lahiri on how industrialisation in West Bengal will need carefully planned land utilisation.

Don’t Miss…

Jay Sayta says that the Lodha Committee report on cleaning up the Board of Control for Cricket in India is little more than good reading material:

“It is undeniable that these suggestions are well-intentioned and meant to improve the administration of the game. However, most of them are not new. The suggestions to include sports bodies within the RTI Act, imposing conditions for office-bearers and limiting their terms, and having professionals or sportspersons in governing councils of sporting associations are all contained in the draft National Sports Development Bill of 2013.

Further, the United Progress Alliance government had already drafted a law to prevent sporting fraud, which is currently pending approval from Parliament. The recommendation to legalise sports betting is a wise one which I have heartily endorsed previously. However, there have been several recommendations in the past by jurists, journalists and policy experts (including by Justice Mukul Mudgal in his report, a precursor to the Lodha committee’s report) which have fallen on deaf ears.”