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It can’t be business as usual with Pakistan, says Prime Minister

New Delhi puts liberalized visa pact with Islamabad on hold; Pakistan SC orders arrest of PM Ashraf
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First Published: Tue, Jan 15 2013. 11 31 PM IST
Pakistan should bring to justice those responsible for the killings and mutilation, demanded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Photo: PTI
Pakistan should bring to justice those responsible for the killings and mutilation, demanded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Photo: PTI
New Delhi: Stepping up the pressure on Pakistan in the wake of the killing of two Indian soldiers in Kashmir by Pakistani troopers last week, India on Tuesday put on hold the implementation of a liberalized visa pact as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned that it could not be “business as usual.”
India’s scaling up of pressure came on a day of political turmoil in Pakistan with the Supreme Court ordering the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in connection with an alleged corruption scandal. Pakistan’s civilian government—seen as the proponent of the peace process with India—is already facing a challenge from a cleric with ties to the Pakistani army leading a mass street protest in the capital Islamabad. The domestic situation has resulted in speculation that the military was working in concert with the judiciary to force out the civilian government.
That India was unwilling to let Pakistan off the hook for the killing of two Indian soldiers in Kashmir on 8 January—one was decapitated and the corpse of the other mutilated—became clear when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters that “after this barbaric act there cannot be business as usual (with Pakistan)”.
India raised the issue of the killing of the soldiers during a telephonic conversation between the directors general of military operations last week and a brigadier-level flag meeting at the de facto border dividing disputed Kashmir into Indian and Pakistani administered regions on Monday. Pakistan, on its part, has consistently denied the killings.
Singh also demanded that Pakistan bring to justice those responsible for the killings and mutilation. Speaking later, Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid warned that Pakistan should not consider that its “brazen denial and the lack of a proper response from the government of Pakistan...on this incident will be ignored and that bilateral relations could be unaffected or that there will be business as usual”.
“Such actions by the Pakistan army, which are in contravention of all norms of international conduct, not only constitute a grave provocation, but lead us to draw appropriate conclusions about Pakistan’s seriousness in pursuing normalization of relations with India,” Khurshid said.
Matching the strong words was the move by India to put on hold on Tuesday a landmark visa pact with Pakistan that would have liberalized the terms and conditions for application and stay in India.
“The implementation of visa agreement has been put on hold due to some technical issues. It was supposed to start today (15 January) but now it will be launched at the appropriate time,” said a high-ranking government official, who did not wish to be named.
The visa pact signed in September was aimed at strengthening business links and people-to-people ties, and was one of the concrete outcomes of a peace process relaunched in February 2011 following the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Trade was seen as the main driver of the renewed process—which India was given to understand had the Pakistan army’s backing—with both sides announcing many steps to boost commerce.
Khurshid declined to specify what specific steps India would take should Pakistan persist with its denials, saying such decisions would be taken as “we move forward”.
“At present, we feel that it is important that a convergent single point of view on behalf of the government that reflects (a) large section of our public opinion should be made clear, and let it be known to everyone here as well as across the border,” the minister said.
The public mood in India has darkened following the killings and India’s opposition has been critical of the way the government has handled the crisis. Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj, who on Monday called for retaliation, on Tuesday welcomed the Indian prime minister’s tough words.
BJP leader Yashwant Sinha demanded that dialogue with Pakistan be called off. “In my view, there should be no talks and no war with Pakistan. There should be a stalemate,” he said.
C. Uday Bhaskar, analyst with the South Asia Monitor think tank, was of the view that India should keep a close watch on developments within Pakistan and along the border.
“We need to review ties, not snap them because this can
be misconstrued as a threat from India that the Pakistan army could take advantage of,” he said. “We need to quarantine this incident at the border and then review the relationship in the light of the current internal developments in Pakistan.”
That the rising tensions were beginning to impact ties became clear with the cancellation of a visit by a Pakistan trade delegation that was supposed to participate in the Annual Partnership Summit jointly being organised by the commerce ministry and the Confederation of Indian Industry in Agra starting 27 January. However, an official aware of developments, said, as of now, Pakistan’s commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim will be attending the summit.
Asit Ranjan Mishra of Mint, Reuters and PTI contributed to this story
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First Published: Tue, Jan 15 2013. 11 31 PM IST