by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 7, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1436)
Relations between India and Pakistan have never been cordial, in fact often tense, but they have hit new lows in recent weeks. This was again illustrated by the abrupt cancellation of talks between the National Security Advisors of the two countries scheduled for August 23 in Delhi. The latest cancellation occurred against the backdrop of Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s virtual ultimatum to Pakistan to decide by midnight August 22 whether it wanted to meet Indian officials or invite Kashmiri political leaders struggling for freedom from Indian occupation for a meeting in Delhi.
India has never been serious about talks with Pakistan and has raised frivolous excuses to sabotage such efforts. This was the second cancellation in a year. The previous round of talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries was cancelled by India because the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi had invited Kashmiri leaders for consultations prior to the talks. This time, the talks were to be held between the national security advisors to the prime ministers of the two countries. Pakistan had invited the Kashmiri leaders to dinner at the High Commission (August 24) after the talks were concluded with India on August 23. Even this was unacceptable to Delhi hence it became inevitable for Pakistan to cancel the talks.
Indian officials alleged that Pakistan was moving away from what had been agreed between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi when they met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Ufa, Russia on July 10, 2015. The text of the Ufa Declaration, however, belies Indian claims.
The text as released by the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries includes the following statement, “They [prime ministers of the two countries] agreed that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues (emphasis added).” It also goes on to condemn terrorism in all its forms with the two countries agreeing to cooperate to eliminate its scourge from South Asia, meeting of the national security advisors, release of fishermen and their boats, early meeting of director generals of military forces as well as director generals of military operations in view of the rising tensions along the Line of Control in Kashmir as well as what is referred to as the “Working Boundary.” The agreement also includes reference to facilitating religious tourism and cooperation on the Mumbai case trial (see full text inset).
Prior to heading to Delhi, Pakistani Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz, a seasoned politician, sent a list of issues to his Indian counterpart that were to be discussed. This included progress on the release of the fishermen, religious tourism and how to reduce tensions along the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary in Kashmir. Toward this end, Aziz suggested discussion on the modalities for resolving the long-standing dispute over Jammu and Kashmir as well as Sir Creek and Siachen Glacier. Instead of responding to the list of issues to be discussed, India went ballistic. A spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry demanded that Pakistan limit its discussion to terrorism only. Further, that Pakistan should not invite Kashmiri leaders for any consultations.
Not limiting itself to advice, the Indian government arrested Kashmiri leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, the main umbrella group in India-occupied Kashmir that had flown from Srinagar to Delhi on August 22 in anticipation of their meeting with the Pakistani National Security Advisor. Those detained included Shabbir Ahmed Shah and two of his colleagues as well as Bilal Gani Lone. All of them were put under house arrest but later released.
This forced Pakistan’s hand. India was not only not willing to discuss the outstanding issues even after its prime minister had agreed to and the respective foreign secretaries of the two countries had put that in writing, it was now dictating what issues Pakistan could bring up. India was acting like a regional hegemon, a role Pakistan is simply not prepared to accept. Islamabad announced it would not be attending the Delhi meeting under such circumstances given India’s belligerently obstructionist attitude.
It is clear that India had agreed to talks with Pakistan under international pressure. Delhi, however, had no intention of seriously discussing any of the outstanding issues except what it would dictate the agenda. After subverting the talks through such belligerence, Delhi immediately attempted to backtrack calling the cancellation “unfortunate” and said it “did not set any preconditions.” Such brazen disregard for truth is typical of Indian attitude over the decades.
The usually calm and composed Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security, did not mince words when he responded to the cancellation of talks on August 23 by saying that the current Indian government under Narendra Modi acts as if it is a regional superpower. “Modi’s India acts as if they are a regional superpower, we are a nuclear-armed country and we know how to defend ourselves,” said Aziz.
Waving several dossiers, Sartaj Aziz said, “We also have evidence of Indian [intelligence] agency RAW’s involvement in fuelling terrorism in Pakistan.” The National Security Advisor went on to say that while Pakistan had direct evidence of Indian involvement in terrorism, India on the other hand only indulged in propaganda against Pakistan without providing any proof of Pakistan’s wrongdoing. “Propaganda against Pakistan is more important for the Indians, rather than giving us evidence,” Aziz asserted.
Aziz also said that India wanted normalization of relations with Pakistan on its own terms; the Indians would like to talk about trade and connectivity but not much else. They want to sell onions and potatoes to Pakistan but do not want to discuss the real issue — the outstanding dispute over Kashmir — that has bedeviled relations between the two countries since they first came into existence and over which they have fought three wars. He pointed out, “If Kashmir is not an issue for India, why have they stationed 700,000 troops in Indian-occupied Kashmir?” He challenged India to hold a referendum in occupied Kashmir, and let the people decide their fate.
Whether India likes it or not, whether the world likes it or not, the fundamental bone of contention bet-ween India and Pakistan is the unfinished business of Kashmir dating back to the time of partition of British occupied India into the dominion states of Pakistan and India in August 1947. Under the terms of the partition plan, the state of Jammu and Kashmir should have become part of Pakistan. Indian-British intrigue led to the state being illegally occupied by Indian troops in October 1947.
War broke out between the two countries. When Indian rulers saw that the military situation was turning against them, they took the matter to the UN Security Council seeking an immediate ceasefire. Indian rulers, especially Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru pledged before the world that once peace had been restored, a referendum would be held to determine the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The ceasefire left two-thirds of Kashmir under Indian occupation and one-third — today called Azad [Free] Kashmir — with Pakistan. There are also several Security Council resolutions that call for holding a referendum in Kashmir. Initially, India eagerly agreed to them but it later started backtracking and today, it denies that Kashmir is disputed territory.
That is where the situation has remained with minor adjustments in several wars and repeated skirmishes ever since. Forces of the two countries face each other along what is referred to as the Line of Control (LoC). There is frequent exchange of gunfire between forces of the two countries. Such firing has escalated in recent weeks leading to numerous civilian deaths on the Pakistani side. Last month, the situation became so tense that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had to issue a statement calling for restraint.
Since 1989, there has been an uprising of the Kashmiri people in which the Indian occupation forces have murdered tens of thousands of innocent Kashmiris. Initially, India refused to allow international human rights organizations or representatives of the international media. In recent years, such restrictions have been relaxed but the suffering of the Kashmiri people has not lessened as documented by Amnesty International in a devastating report released on June 30, 2015. (Amnesty International, 30 June 2015, Index number: ASA 20/1874/2015).
In its report, Amnesty says, “This report documents obstacles to justice for victims of human rights violations existing in both law and practice in Jammu and Kashmir, and shows how the government’s response to reports of human rights violations has failed to deliver justice for several victims and families. Addressing Jammu and Kashmir’s impunity problem, and indeed India’s attitude towards impunity, is a challenge; but it is essential to ensure justice to victims of human rights violations, and facilitate the healing process for those who have suffered during the course of Jammu and Kashmir’s decades of struggle and alienation.”
Despite such exposure of its crimes, India stubbornly peddles the notion that the Kashmiris want to be part of India. While claiming to be the “largest democracy” in the world, it refuses to allow the most basic of fundamental rights to the Kashmiri people: referendum. This act alone speaks volumes about the hypocritical nature of Indian democracy!
Full text of India-Pakistan joint statement on Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif talks in Russia.
Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and his Pakistan counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry issued a joint statement in the Russian city of Ufa, after a bilateral meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. Below is the full statement.
The Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India met today [July 10] on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Ufa. The meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere. The two leaders exchanged views on issues of bilateral and regional interest.
They agreed that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues.
Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate this menace from South Asia.
They also agreed on the following steps to be taken by the two sides:
1. a meeting in New Delhi between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism;
2. early meetings of DG BSF [Director General Border Security Force] and DG [Director General] Pakistan Rangers followed by that of DGMOs [Directors General Military Operations];
3. decision for release of the fishermen in each other’s custody, along with their boats, within a period of 15 days;
4. mechanism for facilitating religious tourism; and
5. both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated his invitation to Prime Minister Modi to visit Pakistan for the SAARC Summit in 2016. Prime Minister Modi accepted the invitation.