For years, India has been pleading with the world to de-hyphenate it from Pakistan

For years, India has been pleading with the world to de-hyphenate it from Pakistan. The argument was that India was way ahead of Pakistan in almost every parameter: Size, economy, military, and in most other social and political indices, and hence India deserves to be seen in its own right. Incidentally, China too bristles at any India-China hyphenation for the same reasons.

Yet the fact remains that every multilateral forum where India and Pakistan meet degenerates into a bilateral slanging match over terrorism and Kashmir, reinforcing the hyphenation. SAARC, a regional forum, is dead in the water because New Delhi does not want to talk to Pakistan. This does not go down well with other member states, who believe their interests are being ignored due to a bilateral spat. At the UN General Assembly, the leaders of the two nations predictably use most of their speeches attacking each other, and then go home to boast about how they had put the other nation ‘in place’ with their semantic jugglery.

Pakistan, on the other hand, needs the hyphenation because it believes it puts it at par with its much larger neighbour, and because GHQ wants to keep the Kashmir issue alive. So at some level, India’s attempts to name and shame Pakistan on the world stage feeds Islamabad’s game plan and ‘internationalises’ the Kashmir issue. That does not mean India should stop talking about the threat of terrorism. But it could certainly stop naming Pakistan, and instead look at the issue from a slightly more global perspective.

India’s position that talks and terror are incompatible needs no further justification. Ditto India’s position that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Constantly reiterating it at multilateral forums only gives Pakistan the chance to challenge it. If India were to totally drop any mention of Pakistan or Kashmir at multilateral forums, any attempts by Islamabad to flag the issue would be seen as a peevish attempt at parity. Ignoring a pesky neighbour can sometimes be a bigger snub than a public insult.