Friday, July 16, 2010

Now, that's a Disaster

The talks between India and Pakistan seem to have taken an unexpectedly nasty turn following the Foreign Ministers' talks in Islamabad yesterday. Although we have enough reason to believe that the talks themselves didn't go so badly, the (rather delayed) joint press conference was, to put it lightly, a disaster!

One of the reasons that the press conference was such a disaster was that it started to late: from a scheduled 2:00 PM local time to a little after 9:00 PM! Journalists, always enthusiastic to wear their patriotism on their sleeve, were expecting something big. But as the joint statement was read out, it became apparent that it was just a pile of rhetoric. That left the journalists very angry - at their own respective Foreign Minister. Both were flummoxed by strongly-worded questions that vitiated the atmosphere even further.

The point-of-no-return appeared to be a question about Hafiz Saeed, to which Mr. Qureshi made a reference to Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai! From then on it was almost back-and-forth between the two, ending in a question (actually, it was a LOUD opinion) about Indian Security Forces, to which Mr. Krishna curtly replied, "That's your opinion." And it ended there... or so we hopes. For, the next morning, Mr. Qureshi made some extremely disparaging remarks, including a personal attack on Minister Krishna. This sort of behaviour is not expected of a Foreign Minister from ANY country, and even the Pakistani media more or less seems to accept that he could've 'used better words.'

Still, it shows that these big, glitzy, high-profile talks come to naught. It also shows that the media on either side actually plays a very negative role. In the end, I think the Foreign Secretaries' talk was much more productive. We need fewer big-ticket events and more talks between lower officials. A quiet, even back-channel, discussion is the need of the hour.

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