War of words between Pakistan and India

31

Things are spiralling from bad to worse as Pakistan and India has engaged in a war of unsavoury words. Tensions soured as the resistance movement in Kashmir became violent following the death of Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri separatist commander. Pakistan adopted a line that diplomatically supported the Kashmiri resistance movement, and condemned Indian atrocities in the Indian-occupied Kashmir. However, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s Home Ministers’ summit held in Islamabad presented an opportunity to initiate dialogue on its sidelines as Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh also attended the conference. However, the opportunity was lost as Singh decided to repeat the same old allegations on Pakistan in a thinly veiled manner in his speech, and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar rebutted him in his address. What can be characterised as churlish behaviour at best, the way this conference was handled by both the ministers naturally did not fare well for thawing the icy tension between the two states. However, Pakistan in a step to reinitiate dialogue presented a proposal to carry out dedicated talks on Kashmir, which was rejected by India, as it had said that India would talk about “relevant” issues that at the time are “cross-border terrorism.” Meanwhile, Pakistan’s High Commissioner in New Delhi dedicated Pakistan’s Independence Day to independence in Kashmir. This drew a virulent response from India’s ministry of external affairs, which hurled allegations at Pakistan for exporting “international terrorism, cross-border infiltrators, weapons, narcotic and fake currency.”

Sadly, there is nothing new about any of this as Pakistan and India have long held intransigent positions, and indulged in political point scoring that has effectively precluded the possibility of any meaningful progress. Whether it is Pakistan that wants to talk about Kashmir on every possible forum, or India that wants to talk about cross-border terrorism without putting Kashmir on the table, the real losers in this state of perpetual enmity are the people of Pakistan, India and Kashmir. India cannot declare Kashmir to be an irrelevant issue when in the same breath it asserts that it is a bilateral issue that must not have any third party interference. India would have to realise that Kashmir is the main bone of contention between Pakistan and India, and it alone has the key to attain lasting peace between the two states. Meanwhile, Pakistan would also have to address India’s security concerns and apprehend all those who are involved in cross-border terrorism.

However, amidst all this Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi’s 15th August speech was particularly confrontational and in appallingly bad taste. Needless to say, it did not befit the prime minister of a country to so brazenly declare that the people of Balochistan, along with Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, had “thanked him a lot in the past few days.” While Azad Kashmir is a disputed territory, and Pakistan itself has not given Gilgit-Baltistan full constitutional status, but going so far as to include Balochistan in the list was clearly over the line. Particularly considering the sensitive situation in Balochistan, and repeated Pakistani accusations of the role of Indian intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing’s, in stirring up instability there, Modi’s remarks would worsen Pakistan-India relations, and give teeth to Pakistan’s allegations. Notwithstanding the utter disregard for international norms while talking about a country’s internal matter, maybe Modi should have remembered the insurgencies in India’s northeast and the alleged human rights abuses there. Even former minister of external affairs of India and Congress leader, Salman Khurshid, criticised Modi saying that Balochistan is Pakistan’s internal matter, and he should not have talked about it.

At the moment, things do indeed look bleak between Pakistan and India, and it would require extraordinary diplomatic manoeuvring to reshape relations from here. *