30 November, 2020

Backroom Boomerangs

Secret diplomacy is not a bad thing per se, but as India and Pakistan discover, extremely difficult to hide

Backroom Boomerangs
It's over." That parting quip, at the end of a harrowing week in South Block, provided an aptly cryptic epitaph for one of the most slippery diplomatic operations since Kargil erupted. For a week, as a new buzzphrase-back-channel contacts-appeared on the scene, the phones never stopped ringing in the foreign ministry, and rationalisations were doled out double-quick as senior bureaucrats bristled at the idea that India was doing a deal. But it was all doomed to end prematurely.

Yes, for back-channel talks to succeed, it is of the essence is that they stay in the back-channel, that is, secret. And that's precisely what didn't happen with the secret parleys between special emissary R.K. Mishra and his Pakistani counterpart, Niaz Naik. The two were trying to do by talking what both governments are publicly committed to doing by more military means. "When the interlocutor is unreliable, you can't have back-channel contacts," explained a source.

The 'sabotage' was a telling comment on the entrenched intransigence of hawks. The cover was blown via a leak from...



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