The tables have turned and the wheels of engagement are moving. From the handshake in Ufa to waving at each other in the United Nations, followed by the chit chat in Paris, and now the National Security Advisor (NSA)-level talks in Bangkok, the Modi government seems to playing a different ball game as far as relations with Pakistan are concerned.
The meeting in Thailand caught everyone by surprise, especially the media which, most of the times, carries a scripted approach towards Indo-Pak ties. And, what is this scripted approach? It is bashing the other school of thought or point of view contrary to the Indian view or interest with a jingoistic attitude. TV channels have resorted to on-screen verbal duels and fireworks in order to lead the TRP or ratings race which, anyway, is a flawed system in itself.
The entire drama surrounding the NSA-level talks (which were supposed to take place in August) between India and Pakistan shows that some mainstream channels in India believe in creating a mass hysteria instead of focussing on core issues. One channel kept shouting how Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's NSA was cancelling his Delhi ticket which seemed as if they were more pained by Pakistan NSA's actions rather than the airline company. Some reports also stated that the government never put a full stop to dialogue and it was only on backdoor mode than the usual drumbeating. The biggest development is India's foreign minister Sushma Swaraj's confirmed presence at the fifth "Heart of Asia" meet in Islamabad on December 8, 2015.
And it's not just the common meeting ground but the common factor which will bring the two neighbours together - the factor being Afghanistan. Both India and Pakistan have a key interest with respect to Kabul, and this summit might prove to be a major turning point in deciding the future of the war-torn country in terms of peace, stability, security and economic regeneration. As far as the situation in Afghanistan is concerned, the security aspect has deteriorated since Ashraf Ghani took charge as president. Strategically, Afghanistan provides a unique gateway to Central Asia for both India and Pakistan. Also, the Islamic State (ISIS) making inroads in the Af-Pak region is a matter of grave concern for the stability of the region.
While some sections of the Pakistani establishment may choose to ignore the growing tentacles of ISIS in the region, it cannot afford an unstable Afghanistan for its own good. For Islamabad, it would be favourable to attain peaceful measures to create an atmosphere of confidence that would be essential to maintain equilibrium in the neighbourhood. As far as Delhi is concerned, it enjoys a huge support from the Afghan establishment but it would also be keen to expand its role in the areas of infrastructure development, electrification, power projects and so on.
When Afghan President Ghani visited India in April this year, he proposed that India should sign the PATTA (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan Trade and Transit Agreement). The Heart of Asia summit might just foster that and it would definitely boost India's stake as far as gaining a stronghold in Central and South Asia is concerned. Coming back to the India-Pakistan angle, when the NSAs of both the nations met in Bangkok, they discussed a whole range of issues - peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir etc.
One can only expect that a detailed discussion would follow as foreign minister Sushma Swaraj has already landed in Islamabad and, maybe, there is some great news as far as cricket fans are concerned. While the hawks on both sides of the border might not favour certain actions or decisions of both the respective governments, but then, it clearly shows the changing dynamics of India-Pakistan bilateral ties.
The Heart of Asia summit will surely be an ice-breaker of sorts for both India and Pakistan. Both the countries will leave no stone unturned to put forward their respective agendas. Who gets the bigger share of "Afghan jalebi" ? We shall see, we shall see.