India's recent mixed signals over Pakistan may have left a window open for dialogue once the elections in UP are over. Months after Pakistani film stars with valid work visas were hounded out, its visually-impaired citizens have been accorded all due courtesies for a cricket tournament. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations has contributed to the Karachi Literary Festival even as encounters and curfew continue in Kashmir. After a long time, New Delhi is witnessing an absence of deliberately whipped-up anger. India had to agree to World Bank-mediated talks with Pakistan on the Indus Waters Treaty. In June, the two premiers will be at a summit in St Petersburg that will welcome India and Pakistan as new members of a regional organisation led by China and Russia.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is currently engaged in a must-win battle in UP and any talk of a rapprochement with Pakistan must be firmly put on hold till the last vote is cast. Having pointedly denied even a single ticket to Muslims in UP, it would not do for Mr. Modi to be seen as supping with the devil. But, it needs to be noted the anti-Pakistan rhetoric has been considerably muted during his election stumping speeches so far.
As for the US, another interested party in the dispute, no one is quite sure about Donald Trump’s predilection, should he turn his attention to this side of the globe. American think-tanks are advocating a tougher line against Pakistan, including consequences for uncooperative behaviour. As previous US Presidents of all ideological shades have discovered, this is easier said than done. This may be the right time, once the UP elections are over, for leaders of both countries to discover the merits of a do-it-yourself approach. India has already been given a seat on a new regional format for Afghanistan. As most of its members are part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, its St Petersburg summit in June may provide the right setting amidst neighbours who would be genuinely interested in relative peace in the region as an end objective. The Trump embrace is best avoided.