To say Nawaz did not try to improve relations with India would be unfair. He’s had to pacify his core right wing constituency, rub the army the wrong way, and even risk embarrassment in his attempt to get a trade relationship going with New Delhi. He accepted Modi’s invitation in good taste and even avoided meeting Hurriyet members while in the Indian capital, contrary to practice. He also did not protest the reaction in India, especially from their foreign secretary when she staged a stiff, unscheduled press conference. Yet the more he was flexible the more Modi emerged stubborn. And finally, at the UN, Nawaz’s speech indicated that he had had enough.
There was talk that the Indians might entertain thoughts of a Sharif-Modi meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly if Nawaz avoided the K-word during his address. But, probably seeing how one time flexibility on the Hurriyet issue made India consider it a permanent position, Nawaz mentioned not only Kashmir, but also the plebiscite. And though the move is bound to trigger wave after wave of strong responses in India, Ban Ki-moon seemed impressed, offering his “good offices” to help resolve the issue “if so requested” by the two countries.
Now any chance of the peace process being revitalised is effectively dead. It is ironic, considering both leaders campaigned on rational, practical and productive engagement with the traditional rival, that the initiative ran out of steam so soon after Modi came to office. His government’s ‘body language’ was never too friendly towards Pakistan. His visits to Kargil and Occupied Kashmir especially, not to mention provocative language about proxy wars and conventional wars, were proof enough, if any was needed, about how the BJP was posturing towards Pakistan. And now that hopes of improvement in ties have been dashed, it will take outside forces to get the two talking again. If the UN can play a role in his regard, it should.