Indians are incurable optimists. We got so euphoric when Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said “bury the past and move forward” that we glossed over his pointed assertion — “The Kashmir issue is at the heart of this.” Hopes of an enduring détente had already been raised in February when Indian and Pakistani armies decided to implement a ceasefire along the Line of Control.
Similarly, when Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan replied to PM Narendra Modi’s Pakistan Day greetings, saying that “the people of Pakistan also desire peaceful, cooperative relations with all neighbours including India,” we failed to take note of his caveat that “durable peace and stability in South Asia is contingent upon resolving all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, in particular the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.”
o, when Pakistan’s Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) approved a proposal allowing the import of sugar, cotton and cotton yarn from India through land and sea routes, we took it for granted that the good old days of India-Pakistan bonhomie had returned. In fact, many said that Islamabad’s unprecedented peace gesture was a pragmatic decision, based on the realisation that animosity with its eastern neighbour was only harming Pakistan.
However, now that Pakistan’s federal cabinet has deferred the ECC’s decision on imports from India — with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi restating PM Imran Khan’s stance that “as long as India does not review the unilateral steps it took on August 5, 2019, normalising relations with India will not be possible” — it’s absolutely clear that Islamabad’s offer to mend fences with New Delhi was nothing but meaningless gibberish. What else explains its volte face within a matter of just a few days?