NEW DELHI :
India’s foreign minister S. Jaishankar has rejected Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent call for conditional talks over the Kashmir dispute and said that security restrictions imposed in Kashmir since last month ahead of New Delhi revoking special status for Jammu and Kashmir provided in the Constitution could be eased in the “coming days".
In an interview with Politico newspaper in Brussels, Jaishankar said he had not read a New York Times op-ed piece by Khan in which the latter had sought conditional dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi but said that India would not be able to think of dialogue when Pakistan “openly practices terrorism".
Khan had, in his New York Times piece published on Friday, offered to hold talks if New Delhi reverses its decisions to revoke the special status of Kashmir and dividing it into two Union territories—Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Khan had also underlined the urgency to begin discussions while a “nuclear shadow" hovered over South Asia.
However, Jaishankar ruled out talks with Pakistan until Islamabad reined in its financing and recruitment of terrorists. “Terrorism is not something that is being conducted in the dark corners of Pakistan. It’s done in broad daylight," Jaishankar said.
Jaishankar, who was in Brussels after a visit to Russia, Poland, and Hungary said restrictions on internet and telephone connectivity were needed to stop the activation of “terrorist assets" and to prevent “people who are doing violence to contact each other".
“It wasn’t possible to stop communications between militants without an impact on all of Kashmir. How do I cut off communication between the terrorists and their masters on the one hand, but keep the internet open for other people? I would be delighted to know," Jaishankar said.
The foreign minister dismissed reports of shortages of medicines and essential items in Kashmir as “fictitious". This comes against the backdrop of reports in the international media of arrests and detentions, and demonstrators being wounded by pellet shots in Kashmir, as well as problems of shortage of medicines and small businesses struggling to cope.
In the coming days in Kashmir “you will see an easing up progressively", which involves a reduction in the number of extra security forces, he said. He also slammed assumptions that there was a Hindu nationalist agenda in removing Kashmir’s special status to allow more non-Muslims to buy property there and muscle aside the Muslim majority.
“The kind of people who say this are people who don’t know India. Does this sound like the culture of India?" the minister asked. Kashmir’s new status would allow the big entrepreneurial investment that was more typical in other Indian states, he said. “People in this day and age are not willing to invest in a state with such restrictive conditions," he said, adding that weak economic development in Kashmir had played into the hands of “cross-border terrorists".