The Indian government on Monday evening cancelled talks scheduled to be held in Islamabad on August 25 between the Pakistani and Indian foreign secretaries. The reason was that the Pakistani High Commissioner in Delhi, Abdul Basit, met with Kashmiri separatist leader Shabbir Shah despite the Indian government having made it clear that this would not be acceptable.

Here are five reasons why this was a terrible idea.

1. Junking the composite dialogue: In the early 1990s, Islamabad and New Delhi stopped holding discussions because Pakistan insisted on talking about Kashmir before anything else. India said it wouldn’t discuss Kashmir, only terrorism. In 1997, Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral managed a breakthrough, starting the first India-Pakistan “composite dialogue”. Composite means "made up of disparate or separate parts or elements”. In others words, the neighbours agreed that one thing would not have to come before the other: they could talk about all issues  simultaneously. It was a great diplomatic breakthrough, for which Gujral should be given due credit one day.

Over the years, the composite peace process has calmed tempers between terrorists attacks and other flashpoints. It is the composite dialogue India has turned to every time it has ran out of options: after Kargil, after the Parliament attack, after 26/11. Critics claim that the composite dialogue has not got us anything except a lot of junkets for a lot of people, but the biggest achievement has been the 2003 ceasefire on the Line of Control in Kashmir, which has saved thousands of lives. But that ceasefire has been in jeopardy since last year.

Modi’s cancellation of talks with Pakistan on Monday goes against the spirit of the composite dialogue, which requires both countries to be willing to do some uncomfortable things: it requires Pakistan to talk terrorism and India to talk Kashmir. As part of these negotiations, there has been convention of Pakistani leaders and diplomats meeting Hurriyat leaders before every new round of talks, to listen to what they have to say.

The Hurriyat leaders are citizens of India, as far as the Indian government is concerned. If the Indian government did not cancel the foreign secretary-level talks because one of India’s most wanted men, Hafiz Saeed, met an Indian journalist named Ved Pratap Vaidik in Pakistan in July, why should it cancel talks over Pakistani diplomats meeting an Indian citizen named Shabbir Shah? Is the objection to the Pakistani High Commissioner meeting an Indian citizen an admission that some Indian citizens in Kashmir are unhappy being Indian?

2. Re-igniting Kashmir: The question above is no doubt a naive one. Shabir Shah and other Hurriyat Conference leaders do not want Jammu & Kashmir to be part of India. They’d ideally be independent, but let people in the state choose their destiny. Much blood has flown down the Jhelum river in Kashmir to make that point.

Modi’s snub on Monday, telling Pakistanis to choose between meeting Hurriyat leaders or having peace talks with India, amounts to pretending that Kashmir is not a dispute between India and Pakistan. This will only take us back to the pre-1997 deadlock.

"The invitation to so-called leaders of the Hurriyat by Pakistan's High Commissioner does indeed raise questions about Pakistan's sincerity, and shows that its negative approaches and attempts to interfere in India's internal affairs continue unabated,” said the external affairs ministry.

The reason Pakistani diplomats and leaders meet Hurriyat representatives before talking peace with India is to signal to their domestic constituency that they are not ignoring the Kashmir issue. India's over-reaction implies that New Delhi is potentially reversing the peace process by many years, going back to the situation where India and Pakistan would spar over whether Kashmir is India's internal matter or an ínternational dispute to which Pakistan is a party.

This could re-ignite the Kashmir issue, bolstering voices that accuse India of having a rigid position on Kashmir. It also gives fodder to Kashhmiri separatists.

Perhaps the real reason why Modi cancelled the talks was that Nawaz Sharif is domestically rather weak, so there is little to be gained from conducting discussions with him. If this were the case, Modi should have chosen the increasing number of ceasefire violations on the Line of Control as the excuse for cancelling the talks. That would have deflected the blame to Pakistan. Using the Hurriyat as the excuse, Modi has brought the focus on the issue that India wants to keep away from the limelight: Kashmir. This plays into the hands of Kashmiri separatists and the Pakistani right-wing.

3. Forgetting the Four Point Formula: It is not as if Pakistan has not been flexible on the Kashmir issue. Pakistan knows it can’t force India to simply give up Jammu and Kashmir. But turning the Line of Control into an international border is not acceptable to Pakistan, as it would negate a key element of Pakistani nationalism, and the raison d'étre of the Pakistani army’s domination of the Pakistani state. At the same time, giving any territory to Pakistan is not an option for India, as “Kashmir is ours” has been a key element of Indian nationalism.

In 2007, Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf had reached an in-principle agreement to resolve Kashmir and other disputes with India (such as Siachen and Sir Creek) in what has come to be known as the Four Point Formula. These four points are local autonomy on both sides of J&K, demilitarisation, a joint mechanism to let citizens on both sides of J&K work together on matters of common concern, and an open border.

This is a win-win solution, through which Jammu & Kashmir would belong to everyone: Pakistan and India, and most importantly, to the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

The proposal has its staunch critics on both sides, but there is absolutely no doubt that whenever Kashmir is resolved, this will be the solution.

It is important to note that even at the Lahore summit in 1999, Nawaz Sharif and Atal Behari Vajpayee were talking about thinking out of the box on Kashmir, discussing the need to go beyond stated positions and worry more about the Kashmiri people.

4. Leaving Pakistan with its only option – sub-conventional warfare aka terrorism: It is not as if Pakistan is eager to hold peace talks with India. In fact, the Pakistani army, right-wing political parties, religious groups and militant organisations want to make sure that there are no peace talks. They say the same thing that the Indian right does in opposing the composite dialogue: their intentions are not right, the dialogue is just drama, nothing will come out of it.

Yet, holding dialogue gives India a mechanism to ask questions of Pakistan, to establish some accountability, to get some promises and see if they are acted upon, to test how much the Pakistani army is willing to back the civilian government.

Such talks are often interrupted by a terrorist attack or increasing violations of the ceasefire on the Line of Control. Yet, without these talks, Pakistan is left with only one option: terrorism. They euphemistically call it sub-conventional warfare. Pakistanis believe that without this weapon, India ignores what Pakistan has to say about Kashmir.

Modi’s cancellation of talks, especially making "meddling" in Kashmir the reason for it, could mean that we will see more terrorism.

“The neighbouring country has lost strength to fight a conventional war but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism,” Modi was quoted as saying in Ladakh on August 12. “How many innocents are being killed? The number of people getting killed through the bullets of cowards is more than those killed in conventional wars,” he said. The generals in Rawalpindi must have heard this speech and said, “Exactly."

The Pakistan foreign office said in response to Modi’s allegations of proxy war that it was “baseless rhetoric”, to which India replied in turn, “India will… address its concerns on terrorism through all means available to us. Our tool kit is not restricted in any manner.” That is not an honest answer. The truth is, whether we like it or not, that war is not an option between two nuclear-armed neighbours. Diplomatic pressure is not an option against a country even the United States has a hard time dealing with. The only option for India, not for peacenik reasons but purely strategic compulsions, is dialogue.

5. Strengthening the anti-India lobby in Pakistan: In a country that’s your biggest security threat, should you encourage those who hate you or those who want to establish a rapprochement?

At a high-powered national security meet in Islamabad on August 9, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told a gathering that included the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence chief, "We don't have good relations with any of our neighbours except China. For development, progress and economic growth, Pakistan needs to have friendly and cordial relations with all its neighbours, especially India and Afghanistan." He added, "You cannot progress in isolation."

It’s the kind of plain-speaking the Pakistani army does not like from civilian prime ministers. Saying what Nawaz Sharif did there, he took a risk. He had also taken a risk coming to Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony despite hard-line elements in Pakistan opposing it. Returning to Pakistan without having said a public word about Kashmir in New Delhi earned Sharif even more criticism.

Modi’s needless cancellation of his government’s first dialogue with Pakistan, over an irrelevant meeting with an inconsequential Kashmiri separatist leader, is likely to weaken the peace lobby in Pakistan, making it difficult for them to argue with those Pakistanis who want permanent hostility with India. The anti-India lobby in Pakistan will now present India as the one which does not want to hold dialogue and resolve issues.