Two Ts form the core and kernel of India's foreign miniter Sushma Swaraj’s various engagements in Islamabad on Wednesday: Terrorism (for Pakistan) and transit (aimed at Afghanistan, seeking transit rights so that India can reach out to Afghanistan for trade and commerce).
Both are age-old demands of India from Pakistan. However, on both these counts, India will get zilch. While the first "T" (terror) is the favoured tool of Pakistan’s foreign policy towards India, the other "T" (transit) is Pakistan’s way of denying India access to Afghanistan through Pakistani territory.
The terror issue has been done to death already but expecting Pakistan to turn off its terror tap would be akin to expecting a leopard to change its spots. The second "T" is as undoable as the first one. Pakistan can make its land and air space available to India to reach out to Afghanistan and make give Afghanistan a far cheaper option to do direct trade with India.
In fact, this is the very crux of the Heart of Asia 5th ministerial conference on Afghanistan that Islamabad is hosting. If Pakistan really wants to help Afghanistan it can do so in a big way by opening its land and airspace for trade and commerce between India and Afghanistan. But if that were to happen, it would amount to a strategic defeat for Pakistan. Blockading India-Afghanistan commercial ties and sabotaging Indian presence in Afghanistan constitute paramount strategic objectives for Pakistan.
The Vajpayee government, in its last couple of years, and the UPA government in its two tenures thereafter laid a strong foundation of fortifying the Indian position in Afghanistan by opening four consulates in Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat and Jalalabad which Pakistan views as its "strategic encirclement". Pakistan has been pressuring the US-led international community to get these four Indian consulates closed alleging that these are nothing but Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) hubs.
Now, see what Sushma Swaraj said during her speech at Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad.
She said India was all for making Afghanistan a hub of interlinked trade, transit, energy and communication routes. To make it happen, it was essential that Afghanistan gets from Pakistan full and direct overland access to India's markets to enable it to take advantage of the zero-duty regime available to Afghan exports to India. "Similarly, if Afghan trucks could carry Indian products to markets in Afghanistan and Central Asia, that would be the best way to make trucking from Afghanistan cost-effective and viable, and bestow benefits to the whole region," she said.
Sushma also put her finger on another important strategic requirement for India by reiterating India’s willingness to join the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement.
"India is also working with Afghanistan and Iran to develop trilateral transit. Participation in development of the Chahbahar port will augment our connectivity with Afghanistan and beyond," she said.
The fact is that everyone in the government of India knows that chances of Pakistan acting on Sushma’s twin "Ts" are as low as snowflakes surviving in an oven. But this is the art of diplomacy – finding a black cat in a dark room on a moonless night.