IN an interview with The New York Times, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that there was no point in talking to India.

He provided a context to his pronouncement: “…I mean, I have done all the talking. Unfortunately, now when I look back, all the overtures that I was making for peace and dialogue, they took it for appeasement.” Indeed, the overtures have been frequent.

Mr Khan promised to “take two steps if India takes one” in the direction of amity.

He ignored those who opposed his move to release the Indian pilot arrested on Pakistani territory in February.

And in the run-up to the Indian general election this summer, Mr Khan went on to state how a victory at the polls for Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be helpful in finding a resolution to the Kashmir issue.

No doubt, his remarks to the NYT are an expression of his frustration — after all Pakistan’s attempts at improving ties, Mr Modi went ahead and revoked India-held Kashmir’s autonomy and sent in thousands of troops to further silence dissent in the occupied territory.

But while Mr Khan’s disappointment is understandable, it is doubtful whether his decision to drop the idea of talks is sensible.

There are many international examples where negotiations between rival states or territories have solved the most intractable of problems.

Foreclosing any opportunity of dialogue — even in the face of Indian intransigence and brutality — will make things difficult for all, not least the beleaguered Kashmiris to whom Pakistan must lend its full political support.

One hopes this is not his final word on the topic of peace in the region.

It is equally true that there is no room for ‘appeasing’ India, and Pakistan’s battle must follow a clear diplomatic route at world forums, where India’s hubris and atrocities in IHK must be highlighted.

For this, it needs a strong, coherent and consistent strategy, perhaps with input from former diplomats, who have participated in several peace efforts with India without compromising on Pakistan’s vision for Kashmir.

That would be more useful than turning away from the goal itself, ie peace.

The tense situation between the two neighbours has yet again demonstrated how fast relationships deteriorate.

It has shown how quickly the demons crying out for war take over the psyche of even those sitting in positions of power.

The recent statement by an Indian minister irresponsibly hinting at the possible use of the nuclear option by his government is an example of just how fast things can spiral out of control.

Mr Khan warned against the conflict flaring up in his interview to NYT.

It is a grim picture — which is precisely why he must not give up.

Instead, the world must be sent a clear message: Pakistan will work towards regional stability even as it stands by the Kashmiris.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2019

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