There is a tinge of amateur theatrics to India waiting for the proverbial “eleventh hour” before announcing its decision on talks between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan. The domestic audience might feel thrilled and see it as keeping Pakistan guessing, but more “professional” analysts could well interpret the dilly-dallying as evidence of the government&’s lack of policy consistency, marked by a superficial approach incapable of handling critical issues with requisite fortitude. Whatever India eventually decides-cancellation, deferment or a meeting of the NSAs before the foreign secretaries-will have reduced the affair to mere “optics”. Can any meaningful discussions be held under confusing circumstances? Or would the jaw-jaw be just “for the record”. Not that it is a one-sided near-farce: that Pakistan also dithered before creating an impression of acting against the perpetrators of the Pathankot terror strike only to try and salvage the talks (under third-party pressure?) also points to a lack of depth, if not insincerity, in its so-called crackdown on the Jaish. The bottom-line remains mutual distrust, despite the bid for headlines that scream “breakthrough”: else why would India “see” positives, but not immediately respond positively. To have attached so much significance to a meeting intended only to lay out an agenda for dialogue confirms a desire for drama-but little more. That scuttling the attempt at reviving dialogue was an objective of the Pathankot foray was obvious; and predictable were the reactions, putting the ball in Pakistan&’s court etc. What does not add up is India sending its foreign secretary and NSA on other duties abroad when the think-tank ought to have been jointly monitoring developments in Pakistan, planning graduated responses. Conversely, in this age of super-fast communications did the government have to wait for a personal interaction with a high official to take a final call? And was it necessary for the Army chief to use his annual press conference to join the process of painting a dim picture of his counterpart? There is also need for explanation on the extent to which government policy is unofficially articulated by the clutch of former diplomats and ex-generals who flit from one TV studio to another, and complicate matters further. It had been expected that when a specially-selected official was appointed ((somewhat controversially?) to head the diplomatic machinery, consistency and clarity would be accomplished: the jury is out on that one. Such are the contradictions, domestic compulsions, in both Islamabad and New Delhi that even preparatory talks get frequently and easily de-railed. And it is a fallacy to conclude that such a tangled situation can be resolved by personal “chemistry”: be it Modi-Nawaz Sharif, Vajpayee- Sharif/Musharraf, Indira-Bhutto, or even Rajiv-Benazir. Diplomacy is made of sterner stuff.