Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that Kashmiri leaders are not a "third party" to the dialogue between India and Pakistan as described by the foreign minister Sushma Swaraj during her fateful press conference on August 22 which led to the cancellation of the NSA-level talks.
Sharif called Kashmiri leaders "an important party" to the Kashmir issue, saying the talks with New Delhi would be pointless without a discussion on the state. Earlier, Pakistan Prime Minister's Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had highlighted the Pakistan's nuclear power status to warn New Delhi against any military adventure.
What these statements underline is that after the meltdown of the NSA talks, the two countries have gone back to square one. In fact, the situation looks even worse than anytime in recent years. Dialogue seems now more distant than ever.
With introduction of the two new redlines – Hurriyat and the discussion of Kashmir – and which in Pakistan's view are the "pre-conditions," the neighbours seem in no position to get back to the engagement. For to do so, either of the governments will have to back down on their respective position, something that will make them look capitulatory to their people. But given the fraught nature of their current relations, the two countries, sooner or later, will have little option but to resume talks.
The neighbours need some basic relations to institute some crisis tools to resolve an extraordinary situation arising out of a big terror incident or the escalation on the borders. This calls for the two countries to find a way to get around their existing irreconcilable differences to re-engage.
And this also calls for the reframing of their dialogue away from its current goal of one-upmanship between the countries to a good faith pursuit of the resolution of the long festering issues.
There is thus a need for a fundamental shift in the approach. The fresh effort at reconciliation, if and when it is undertaken, would greatly benefit if it is pursued for its intended goal and as far as reasonably possible kept undistracted by the efforts to derail it. There is no other way to put the demons of a bitter history to rest.