September 25, 2018
Flip-flop over FMs’ meeting
The NDA-government owes an explanation to the people why the meeting between India, Pak Foreign Ministers is cancelled
The cancellation of the meeting between Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mahmood Qureshi in New York next week within a day of its announcement is unfortunate. The initiative for announcing the meeting between the two Foreign Ministers was taken by India and the latter took no time in cancelling it citing recent attacks in Jammu and Kashmir by militant groups and stamps issued by the Pakistani postal services glorifying one of the militants killed two years back. The reasons cited by the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson do not justify the backtracking on a diplomatic initiative at this stage when grounds were being prepared for resumption of stalled dialogue process between India and Pakistan on all issues including Kashmir after the new regime took over in Pakistan almost a month ago. The Pakistani Premier Imran Khan has offered to resume talks not only after he was sworn-in but even before the elections in his country as part of his party’s campaign. The neighbouring country making a fresh beginning after the new regime took over makes some sense when the stalled dialogue has become a victim of jingoistic elements on both sides of the dividing line. In fact, it was an important opportunity for India to resume not only dialogue but also move forward on other issues that are staring both the countries in their faces concerning the people. As per the MEA spokesperson, both acts ‘expose’ Pakistan’s ‘evil agenda’ and the “true face of the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan’, rendering talks ‘meaningless’. The BJP-government is well within its rights to rethink any decision it takes, but the reasons that it has furnished for cancelling the meeting are far from convincing. It is important to note that the number violent attacks on the security forces in J&K in the past few months have been increasing compared to previous years but they predate the centre’s decision to schedule a meeting on the sidelines of United Nations. Since the beginning of the year, 13 Border Security Force jawans have been killed along the Line of Control and the International Border, including the latest case last week of a jawan’s body recovered bearing torture marks. During the same period, more than 20 policemen of J&K police have been killed by militant groups. The central government’s reaction to Friday morning’s killing of three policemen appears puzzling and knee-jerk reaction. Equally surprising is the subject of the stamps of Kashmiri militants; while there is no doubt that they are offensive, they were issued back in July before Imran Khan become Prime Minister. The BJP-government should clarify its position on what prompted the cancellation of the meeting, not just for the domestic audience but also for the international community which is watching the India-Pakistan relationship very closely particularly in the backdrop of developments in South Asia and Middle East.
The Friday’s decision of India to cancel the meeting in New York dampens hope for meaningful engagement between the two countries in near future, perhaps until the General Elections in India next year. A hint in this direction has also been made by the Pakistani Foreign Minister also with the observation that internal pressures and domestic politics besides the Lok Sabha elections could be the reasons for cancellation of talks. Both the countries can at least use this intervening period to bring down tensions. This is particularly necessary in view of the situation on the borders which demands immediate attention. A day later the killing of the BSF jawan, a statement by the Defence Minister that the Indian Army is ‘also cutting heads, but not displaying them’ only brings into focus the need to stop the retaliatory cycle on the borders, which can lead to further escalation of tensions. The operation of new communication lines between the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers is an important initiative in this regard, which needs to be carried forward. India’s decision to call off the meeting on the sidelines of UN is only the latest in a series of cancellations of talks with Pakistan since the Modi government came to power. The diplomatic engagement calls for continued dialogue process to resolve all the issues between the two countries. This important for the reason that ultimately, both the countries have to engage in talks and there is no alternative to peaceful resolution of issues, howsoever contentious they may be.
News Updated at : Sunday, September 23, 2018