The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan have returned home, licking their wounds from their latest failed engagement. Both sides are blaming each other for not only failing to make any progress, but also souring ties further, with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart S.M.Krishna openly sparring at a news conference following the talks in Islamabad. Qureshi suggested Krishna did not seem to have the full mandate to conduct negotiations because directions were being given from New Delhi throughout the day-long talks, drawing rebuke from India which said the foreign minister had been insulted on Pakistani soil.
Some people are asking why bother going through this painful exercise at this time when the chances of of the two sides making even the slightest concession are next to zero? India and Pakistan may actually be doing each other more damage by holding these high-profile, high-pressure meetings where the domestic media and the opposition in both the countries is watching for the slightest sign of capitulation by either government.
It's the world's longest running soap opera, made for great television viewing, says a blog on the Indian National Interest. "These events have become the drivers of the process each such opportunity attracting saturated media coverage and intense public scrutiny in both countries."
And these are only talks about what to talk about since they can't even agree on whether terrorism should be front and centre of the dialogue as New Delhi wants or the row over Kashmir be given top billing as Pakistan wants. "If anything, the precarious relationship between India and Pakistan deteriorated after the countries’ two foreign ministers haggled in day-long sessions on July 15 – not over substance but over what issues they would discuss and when they would discuss them," argues Michael Hughes in the Huffington Post
That's pretty much been the the way the implacable foes have approached each public engagement for several decades except for bursts of high-powered diplomacy such as Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee riding the first bus service between New Delhi to Lahore in 1999 in a dramatic gesture to breach the walls of distrust that some compared to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's trip to Israel. Some of us who followed Vajpayee to the impenetrable border thought history was being made and that the whole India-Pakistan narrative was being transformed. But, as has happened so often in the past, Vajpayee's peace-making ended in spectacular failure when three months later his government confronted hundreds of thousands of fighters backed by the Pakistani army who had occupied India's part of Kashmir.