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Behind 'Happy Birthday', 'Get Well' Wishes, No Move to Restart India-Pak Talks?

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet wishing Nawaz Sharif “a long and healthy life” on his birthday has been the subject of much discussion. After all it comes in the backdrop of the Uri and Nagrota attacks and increasing hostilities at the Indo-Pak border. The tweet was acknowledged by the Pakistani Prime Minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz who conveyed her father’s best wishes to Modi.

It has now emerged that Nawaz Sharif recently wrote to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj wishing her a speedy recovery. While the Indian government has refused to comment on the contents of the letter, Pakistan government sources say this is yet another proof of its seriousness to initiate dialogue and have good relations with India.

Reacting to Sharif’s letter, former MEA secretary Vivek Katju said: “Nawaz Sharif has known Sushma Swaraj and it is common courtesy that he would write to her when she has been extremely ill. It also once again shows Nawaz Sharif’s eagerness to resume the dialogue process.”

Nawaz Sharif’s letter is one of the many attempts by Pakistan to show it is committed to the dialogue process. Sartaj Aziz’s visit to India for the Heart of Asia Conference was also aimed at restarting talks. Pakistan government sources say their goodwill gesture to release 220 Indian fishermen is also a step in that direction.

So does Narendra Modi’s tweet wishing Nawaz Sharif show that India is now ready to resume talks? “While this is nothing but an exchange of pleasantries, it does show an attempt on the part of the Prime Minister to keep the doors for dialogue open. After all you have to start talking one day and you can’t suspend talks forever,” a source said.

Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said: “It would be childish on our part to take gestures like a birthday tweet as a change in policy. It is nothing but standard diplomatic practice.” Sibal warned that India should not think of restarting dialogue before seeing tangible proof of Pakistan rooting out terror groups and taking action against the likes of Hafiz Saeed, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Maulana Masood Azhar.

Sibal also said Pakistan’s recent overtures are a pretence for the international community, which wants peace between India and Pakistan.

“Pakistan is only putting up this show to counter India’s strategy to isolate it diplomatically. They want to earn brownie points by showing they want peace,” he said.

Foreign policy experts also warn that it would be baffling for India to restart dialogue after mounting this diplomatic campaign after Uri attacks, carrying out surgical strikes and isolating Pakistan globally. Officially, the Indian government has given no indication of resuming bilateral dialogue, with the foreign ministry spokesperson saying talks and terror can’t go together. Any change from the stated stand without tangible action from the Pakistani side would invite tremendous criticism from the Opposition, which has been questioning the Prime Minister’s foreign policy.