Pak dignitaries have long met Hurriyat leaders on their visits
Precedent plays an important part in the conduct of relations between countries, especially if they are estranged nuclear neighbours like India and Pakistan, with the thorny issue of Kashmir thrown in. It has been a practice for some years now of official guests from Pakistan to meet Kashmiri separatist leaders. Farooq Leghari did so as Pakistan president in 1995, and it became almost a regular feature on the agenda of visiting Pakistani dignitaries ever since Atal Behari Vajpayee invited Pervez Musharraf for the Agra Summit in 2001 (see Parley Vous). The UPA government too seemed fine with the arrangement, the diplomatic and political logic being that it would keep the Kashmiri hardliners happy, and at the same time allow Pakistani leaders to earn some brownie points with their constituents back home.
It was a marked departure, therefore, when the Narendra Modi government asked the Pakistan high commissioner in Delhi not to go ahead with his scheduled meetings with leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, and called off the August 25 foreign secretary-level talks in Islamabad when Abdul Basit refused to comply. The turn of events seemed especially baffling as Modi had just a few months earlier—in May—pulled off a coup of sorts by inviting Nawaz Sharif for his inauguration ceremony.
South Block officials, however, say that even in May, when preparations were being made for the swearing-in, it had been communicated informally to Sharif that it would be nice if he did not meet Hurriyat leaders, and Sharif had apparently respected India’s request. Former Indian diplomat Vivek Katju goes to the extent of saying the decision was long overdue. “It is a course correction for normal, diplomatic conduct,” he says.Former Indian deputy national security advisor Leela Ponappa takes a similar stand, saying, “India had been following a wrong policy all these years. It did not need to be continued because it was in practice for the last 14 years.”
There were other critics. Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani said a meeting such as this was not a “genuine reason” to cancel talks; his moderate counterpart Mirwaiz Umer Farooq called the decision “very, very unfortunate”. PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti too called it “an immature reaction”. The Congress, with no stakes now, said it was “kneejerk policy” to have invited Sharif anyway. In the US, a State Department spokesperson said, “It is unfortunate that planned talks between India and Pakistan have fallen through.”
To the world at large, Modi’s move exposes the fragility of India’s neighbourhood policy under a “tough” leader, especially one who can break precedent and unilaterally set new terms and templates for future engagements with South Asian nations. The BJP alone cheered their strongman, saying the party “welcomed the decision”. “Though India wants good relations with its neighbours, it will not tolerate any interference in its internal affairs by anyone,” its national secretary Shrikant Sharma declared.
“Asking its high commissioner to desist from meeting the Hurriyat leaders was definitely within the control of the civilian government,” the mandarins at South Block argue. Not doing so has cast suspicion over Pakistan’s intention and seriousness to improve relations with India. “We did not call off talks when there was an increase in LoC firing or when Pakistani leaders decided to raise the issue of Kashmir on August 14, their independence day,” they say.
However, many in India see the argument as retrospective justification for Modi’s decision. They wonder if this is the trajectory the government will follow from now on, what will it do if there is a terror attack in India by terrorist elements in Pakistan? By forcing India-Pakistan relations into a cul de sac, squeezing room to resolve differences through negotiation, is the BJP-led regime leading India on a confrontational path with Pakistan? Were it to happen, not only will it be a setback for ties between the two neighbours, it will also stymie peace, development and stability in South Asia. Perhaps why the Indian and Pakistani leadership needs to find a way, sooner rather than later, to renew their engagement to normalise ties and take them forward. Given the mood both in Delhi and in Islamabad, that seems more like wishful thinking than any measured assessment of ground reality, condemning Indo-Pak ties to another long hiatus.
Stop being naive. Precedent cannot be a factor for Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Spot the Real Narendra Modi, Sep 1). He is of a completely different grain from previous prime ministers, from Nehru to Manmohan Singh and A.B. Vajpayee. Modi doesn’t seem to be a person who believes in keeping Pakistan in good humour for negative returns. Pakistani leaders and diplomats meeting Kashmiri separatists may have been taken lightly in the past, but Modi has given the Pakistani establishment a clear choice. Separatists claim to be the leaders of Kashmiri people, which they are not. Witness the heavy voter turnout in defiance of their calls. Being a signatory to the Simla Agreement, Pakistan cannot impose them as the third party in the Kashmir issue. Modi has only abandoned foreign secretary-level meetings, not the possibility of further meetings if Pakistan sees reason.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Precedent has it that whenever a Pakistani dignitary shakes hands with an Indian dignitary, it’s with a gun to his back, on the trigger of which lie the fingers of the Pakistani army and the isi. Until then, there is no point in talks.
George Jacob, Kochi
Modi deserves kudos for being tough with Pakistan. He should also make General V.K. Singh our defence minister to deal firmly with Pakistani generals. Call me a warmonger but a steady observance of Pakistan’s words and actions are enough to convince anyone that peace with the country is only wishful thinking.
S.R. Prabhu, Alappuzha
It’s unfortunate that India-Pakistan relations go through an endless sequence of blow hot-blow cold phases which do no good to the prestige of governments on either side. But if the Modi government thinks it can get Pakistan to change its ways, it should shed its naivete.
K.S. Jayatheertha, Bangalore
So far India has tolerated the interference and that is the reason Kashir problem is not solved.Some one has to be plane speaker instead of dragging for years.
Mr.Pranay Sharma's low IQ seems to obscure the reality that Indian PM Modi is asserting the will of the nation when he asks for reciprocity and the end of duplicitous behavior from pakistan. All that the likes of Mr. Sharma and low IQ brethren in the Indian media need to do is observe how he is treating BAngladesh and other neighbours in a qualitatively different manner than Pakistan, which has every intention of "talking peace" while continually shelling on the border and sending in terrorists to India.
Maybe Indians are confused by what it means to be a statesman since the only such "statesman" they now is the self-serving egotistical Jawaharlal Nehru that sold out the country to look all "Statesmanly". A leader who does not preserve his country's interests at all times is no statesman -- the only true measure of a statesman is if he uses the power vested in him to push the country's interests ruthlessly and without fear. Mr. Modi certainly seems to be doing that.
"what will it do if there is a terror attack in India by terrorist elements in Pakistan"
I am also waiting to find an answer to this question. The next terror attack is not a question of IF but simply WHEN.
"The BJP alone cheered their strongman, saying the party “welcomed the decision”
Along with large number of Indians. Jst look at the responses the edits in various newspapers got.
The article is pure BS-the usual drivel about the necessity of peace process etc etc. If INDIA SHOULD TALK TO PAK, IT SHOULD TALK ON ITS TERMS-NOT ON THE TERMS SET BY PAK.
@ Nasar Ahmed
"Kashmir problem is a inherently a Hindu Muslim problem."
"Kashmir problem is a inherently a Hindu Muslim problem."
Kashmir is a "problem" because Pakistan thinks that it belongs to them on the basis of religious demography.
Do you believe that Kashmir belongs to Pakistan because it is a Muslim majority state?
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