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Open or closed diplomacy: Does it matter if Indo-Pak relations improve

The National Security Advisers (NSAs) of India and Pakistan held an undisclosed meeting in Bangkok on Sunday. A range of discussions took place according to several news reports including peace and security, terrorism and Jammu & Kashmir between the two nations.

Apparently, only the Prime Minister’s Office was aware of the conduct of the meeting. Both the countries had decided on the location by mutual consensus. This development of relations can create varied subtexts in the bordering nations, which can be generic or specific in nature.

For the cynic who like to question or know all details of strategic ties under the gambit of public awareness can, and are, questioning the intentions of the undisclosed meet between the countries. For those the prime explanation is that it is not the end of open diplomacy and yes, some information are not meant to be disclosed in the public view.

The RTI Act 2005 itself is self-restrictive in nature. The Act does not make the Right to Information an absolute right but imposes a restriction on this privilege. Section 8(1) of the Act deals with exemption from disclosure of information for some areas of governance. The section says that “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen.”

The usual exemption permitting Government to withhold access to information is generally in respect of these matters: (1) International relations and national security; (2) Law enforcement and prevention of crime; (3) Internal deliberations of the government; (4) Information obtained in confidence from some source outside the Government; (5) Information which, if disclosed, would violate the privacy of an individual; (6) Information, particularly of an economic nature, when disclosed, would confer an unfair advantage on some person or subject or government; (7) Information which is covered by legal/professional privilege, like communication between a legal advisor and his client and (8) Information about scientific discoveries and inventions and improvements, essentially in the field of weapons.

One must realise, in an age where media yells and demands answers in the name of democracy, some information aren’t meant for the public. In such situation, governments are put under scanner and their intentions are doubted on the ground of having some implicit agenda in mind. It must also be noted that this ‘secret’ meeting must have been decided after much deliberation and detailing to better the Indo-Pak relations.

Questions of undermining nature, such as these, can jeopardise the hope of betterment in relations between two nations at conflict with each other. It can complicate the strategies and create axiomatic apprehension within the countrymen.

Also, the media are to pay special attention to mending itself from becoming exigent in nature or rather need to not represent it under a negative gambit of secret diplomacy.

India and Pakistan sought to have NSA-level talks on several occasions in the past, though they failed due to internal or external reasons. The Indian media have, in past, over emphasised on the expectations from the meet that the attempts tend to fall in the vast valleys of expectations.

What we fail to recognise is that at times certain issues are so delicate that they need to be treated with patience, sensibility and, more so, should be under a restricted debate for achieving productive results. These ambiguities at times are more certain than the stated facts.

If these undisclosed meetings between the NSAs can bring a paradigm shift in the Indo-Pak relations then why not?

It can be assumed that the NSA-level talks in Bangkok might contribute to developing a series of bilateral conversations. It may even be fateful or prudent or necessary but these talks can be the most substantive and meaningful dialogues between the two countries.

If the idea of better Indo-Pak relations is not more important than the apparent public awareness of international relation, then yes we should fight and demand only ‘open diplomacy’.

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