http://www.ndtv.com/opinion/theatre-of-the-absurd-by-india-pak-scores-1209239 In all the years that I've followed developments between the two countries, I've never seen a situation like the one that is playing out these days - a scheduled dialogue that both would rather not proceed with. What makes what has been happening over the last few weeks more like the theatre of the absurd is that rather than call off the dialogue, each side has been trying to force the other to take the decision. It all began in Ufa in Russia where against the direction of play, PM Modi sat down to talk with his Pakistani counterpart. There was no build-up to this meeting, seemingly little preparation and, given the general atmosphere of hostility, little expectation that the meeting would be anything other than a photo-opportunity. The Prime Ministers both came together to pull a proverbial rabbit out of their shared hat when a joint statement was agreed and read out by the Foreign Secretaries of both countries. It was seen as a victory for PM Modi with the Pakistani side agreeing to keep any mention of Kashmir out of the joint statement, while agreeing to mention justice for the 26/11 attacks. I wrote an opinion piece for NDTV immediately after Ufa and nothing has happened after I did to suggest that I was wrong to not be optimistic about the developments. One of the key outcomes of Ufa was the scheduling of talks at the level of the National Security Advisors. From what I can recall, this is the first time talks between the two country's NSAs have been scheduled like this. The build up to the NSA-level talks has been anything but smooth with everything that could be done to derail the process thrown in to the mix. To start with, Pakistan was anything but keen to fix a date. The dates proposed by India were met with stony silence for the longest time. At one point, it looked as though for want of a reply from Pakistan the talks would not take place at all. The last few weeks have seen major terror attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur, both areas in Punjab and Jammu respectively that haven't seen terror attacks in many years. The BJP's oft tom-tommed line, while in opposition, that talks and terror couldn't go together was put to the most severe test. Infiltration attempts continued unabated and the Line of Control (LoC) has seen a major escalation in ceasefire violations, particularly in the Poonch region of Jammu. These violations have targeted civilian populations with a number of deaths and injuries. Curiously, while all this was unfolding, PM Modi maintained a steadfast silence with no reference to any of these developments either on Twitter or in his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day. The only possible conclusion that one could draw from all this was that Pakistan wanted to give the Indian side a reason to call off the talks, and do so without taking too much of the blame. India stubbornly withstood the attacks, the infiltration and the ceasefire violations while refusing to pull back from the planned meeting. This is where things took a bizarre turn, one I must confess I've never seen before. Pakistan pulled out its trump card - an invitation to the Hurriyat leaders to meet Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistani NSA, before the meeting with his Indian counterpart. Recall, if you will, the Indian reaction to a similar invitation before the scheduled Foreign Secretary level talks in July 2014. India reacted with a swift, harsh, no-nonsense approach not seen before, the talks were called off, and a line drawn in the sand - no Hurriyat meetings will be tolerated. So the invite to the separatists to Pakistan must have seemed like a sure-shot way of getting India to do what it's thus far been refusing to do - oblige Pakistan by being the bad guy and calling off the NSA talks. Except that isn't what happened. In another bizarre and new twist, no cancellation announcement followed the invitation to the Hurriyat. Instead, the central government got its ally in Srinagar, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, to place the invited separatist leaders under house arrest to prevent them from traveling to Delhi to meet Pakistan's NSA Sartaj Aziz. Now the onus was on Pakistan to call off the talks since they couldn't been seen to be accepting this Indian strong-arming tactic. Of course there were reactions on expected lines with the supporters of the Modi government lauding this step as another indicator of the famed 56 inch no-nonsense chest, and so called anti-national apologists for the Hurriyat like yours truly severely critical of the decision. No sooner had I and many others registered their unhappiness with the decision and Mufti Sayeed's spineless conduct that news broke that the hitherto detained leaders had suddenly found themselves free to travel. A pair of confused governments in Srinagar and Delhi decided to give even more evidence of just how confused they were, as if more evidence were needed to make the case! I can imagine a lot of very satisfied people in Islamabad and Srinagar - the sidebar was now the central headline piece. Predicting what will happen between India and Pakistan is fraught with enormous risk, but I'll live dangerously here and stick my neck out. Here's what I think will happen - the talks will go ahead as scheduled, and the Hurriyat will meet Aziz after the talks, over a cup of tea (their current invite is for dinner at the Pakistani High Commission on Sunday). The Modi government will claim this change as a major victory for their strong stand while remaining silent on all the contradictions and dilutions that this actually means. Mufti Sayeed will remain silent in the misplaced hope that he can count on notoriously short public memory, and people will forget that his strings are pulled from outside the state. Pakistan will be able to wash off the sins of having remained silent on Kashmir in Ufa by claiming this as a victory of their Kashmir position, and the Hurriyat will just claim this as a clear indicator that they are the true representatives of the Kashmiri people. I wish the government of India attached as much importance to not losing face as the Chinese do, because today the Modi government has lost face, big time. There are two losers and two winners today with the Modi and Mufti governments the clear losers, displaying what can only be termed as gold medal-winning skills in twisting, turning and back tracking. The clear winners are the government of Pakistan and the Hurriyat for self-evident reasons. If this is how India-Pakistan engagements are going to handled over the next four years, God help us.