New Delhi: India has drawn a red line on talks with Pakistan with foreign secretary S. Jaishankar asking Islamabad to first address its concerns on cross-border terrorism, which was India’s core concern before seeking talks on disputes including Kashmir.
In his response to a second letter from Pakistan in a week, inviting India for talks on Kashmir, Jaishankar also repeated India’s demand that Pakistan vacate Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said on Thursday.
Other details of Jaishankar’s response were not disclosed, but India’s response seemed to mirror the answer it gave Pakistan last week when New Delhi demanded the “cessation of cross-border terrorism by Pakistan aimed at Jammu and Kashmir, ending incitement to violence and terrorism from Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, detaining and prosecuting internationally recognised Pakistani terrorist leaders who have been publicly active recently in exhorting and supporting such violence in that state, closing down of Pakistani terrorist camps where terrorists continue to be trained and denying safe haven, shelters and support to terrorists in Pakistan who have escaped Indian law".
The references were to India’s charge that Pakistan abets terrorism against it in J&K, shelters militants like Hafiz Saeed who head groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba that target India and houses camps that train militants to infiltrate into India and attack targets in Kashmir and other parts of the country.
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Jaishankar’s latest response was handed by Indian high commissioner Gautam Bambawale to Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry on Wednesday, news agency Press Trust of India said.
Chaudhry’s second invite to India to discuss Kashmir was dated 19 August and was the second in a week. The 19 August letter seemed to ignore the points made by India in its first letter, which was handed to Chaudhry on 17 August.
In his latest letter, Chaudhry had invited Jaishankar to visit Islamabad by the end of this month “to discuss the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, with a view to finding a fair and just solution, as per the United Nations Security Council resolutions and aspirations" of the people of the state.
The sharp exchange of words comes against the backdrop of unrest in Indian administered Kashmir that India says is fomented by Pakistan.
Almost 70 people have been killed since the start of the unrest last month following the death of Burhan Wani, who India says was a militant who belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen group, once the dominant militant group in Kashmir.
Pakistan’s description of Wani as a “Kashmiri leader" angered India as did its offer to send relief material to Indian administered Kashmir which has been under curfew for many days. Pakistan observance of 20 July as “Black Day" to protest alleged human rights violations in Kashmir as well as Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s statement that Indian administered Kashmir would be part of Pakistan did not help matters.
Home minister Rajnath Singh was greeted by protests over Kashmir when he visited Islamabad earlier this month for a South Asian home ministers’ meeting. Pakistan’s offer over the weekend to send relief supplies to people in Kashmir annoyed India further.
That Pakistan has left no stone unturned in its efforts to internationalize the Kashmir issue has also riled India.
The sparring between the two countries comes after a seeming thaw in ties in December when the national security advisers of the two countries met in Bangkok and discussed terrorism and other disputes between the two countries including Kashmir, that has triggered three of the four wars between the neighbours.
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The Bangkok talks were followed by visits to Pakistan by Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and prime minister Narendra Modi. Modi’s visit to Pakistan was the first by an Indian prime minister in a decade.
But the 2 January attack on India’s Pathankot airbase put paid to the thaw in ties that was to see peace talks between the two sides resume in January.
Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal described the current state of ties between India and Pakistan as an impasse.
“You could say that India has drawn a red line for its talks with Pakistan" with New Delhi’s focus firmly on terrorism, he said.
“Pakistan’s efforts seem aimed at showing the world that it is offering talks but India is refusing," Sibal said. In the present scenario, “the scope for a resumption of a dialogue between India and Pakistan seems remote," he added.