Prime Minister Imran Khan has congratulated the Indian cricket team and its captain Virat Kohli “for the first-ever win by any sub-continent team in a Test series in Australia”. Twitter is ablaze with criticism. No Indian leader, let alone its PM, has ever congratulated any Pakistan team or player for any extraordinary achievement (and there are many). Indeed, if Nawaz Sharif had taken such a liberty, he would have been branded as an “Indian agent” and dragged over the coals by the Miltablishment’s trolls. What is sauce for the goose is clearly not sauce for the gander.

But an explanation for such generousity of spirit may be extracted from a string of recent statements and initiatives by Pakistan’s civil-military leaders relating to India. Mr Khan invited Navjot Sidhu to his inauguration in August where the army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, gave the good Sikh a much-publicized bear hug to launch the Kartarpur initiative that even the hard-nosed Modi government found impossible to resist. Then, in September, PM Khan wrote to Mr Modi suggesting that the foreign ministers of both countries should meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly moot in New York, which Mr Modi first accepted and then, on second thoughts, rejected after accusing Pakistan of continuing its policy of “promoting terrorism.” The “bad response” surprised Mr Khan. “Why would anyone be scared of dialogue?” he asked, “then there are preconditions put on such a dialogue … it’s almost as if there is no desire for peace.” He followed it up by saying that “Pakistan wanted to hold a dialogue with India, but New Delhi has refused Islamabad’s offer several times.” But, he said, “Pakistan will wait for the 2019 elections in India to be over for its current outreach to get a positive response from New Delhi.”

Meanwhile, India is keeping the LoC hot. Every day, there are reports of Indian shelling which martyr Pakistani troops and civilians alike. India’s repression in Kashmir continues to take a toll of precious lives even as it admits that “Pakistani infiltration” is down in recent times.

Now we have a statement by the foreign minister, Shah Mahmud Qureshi. He has been touring countries in the region trying to drum up support for Pakistan’s policy in the endgame in Afghanistan. He says Pakistan is keen to sort out its problems with its neighbor on the East (India) because its hands are full trying to break the deadlock with its neighbor on the West (Afghanistan). This has been followed by front page news two days ago that the army’s top brass, at the 217th Corps Commanders Conference in GHQ, had “reviewed the geo-strategic environment and security situation in the country”, voiced concern over “India’s LoC violations” but stressed support for “regional peace initiatives”. The linking of the geo-strategic environment with the security situation in the country and Pakistan’s regional peace initiatives is the key phrase.

While the current focus is on the end-game in Afghanistan involving US, Russia, China, Iran, the Afghan government and the Taliban, the use of the term “regional peace initiatives” is intended to implicitly include India in its fold. It is critical to plug the gap with India so that, as Mr Qureshi put it, “its hands are free” to maneuver in Afghanistan. In other words, the civilian government is merely following the tactical guidelines laid down by the Miltablishment to secure its internal and external strategies. How is India likely to respond?

It is difficult to imagine why Mr Modi would respond positively right now. Pakistan-bashing is par for the course in normal times. But it assumes greater weight and urgency in the run up to the Indian elections, especially when the BJP is running low on steam. That would help explain why PM Khan argues that it is better to wait until the Indian elections are over for Pakistan’s “current outreach” to yield fruit. It also explains why the Pakistani military will respond tit-for-tat on the LoC until the time is mutually propitious to cease fire.

In his first term, Mr Modi has assiduously followed the Doval Doctrine of “aggressive-defense” against Pakistan. This has translated into proxy terrorisms in Balochistan, Karachi and FATA because the Kashmir liberation movement shows no sign of abating. But three facts are becoming clear even to the most rigid BJP strategists and Hindu nationalists. First, the “infiltration” from Pakistan, as India admits, is on a declining curve. Two, despite this fact, the Kashmiri spirit of resistance, as everyone knows, is unbroken. Three, the world is beginning to voice concern at the unprecedented gross violation of human rights in the Valley by India’s security forces. Added together, these are good reasons for the next elected government in India to respond in equal tactical measure to the Pakistani offer of an unconditional dialogue. Both countries may feel the need to take steps to diffuse their mutual hostility so that they can better deal with their pressing internal problems.

Therefore, other things being equal, the chances of a thaw in Indo-Pak relations by late 2019 are bright.