THE Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi has invited Kashmiri leaders for a meeting ahead of talks between India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz. Leaders of both factions of Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and other leaders including Yasin Malik and Naeem Malik will meet Pakistan High commissioner Abdul Basit. Kashmiri leaders will meet Sartaj Aziz before he holds talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval. This was stated in Indian print media and NDTV, which means that India would not raise any objection to the meeting of Kashmir leaders ahead of talks between the National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan to be held on 23-24 August. In view of India’s violations on LoC and working boundary, and Nerandra Modi’s insinuations during his visit to UAE, the prospects of any serious talks look bleak.
Pakistan’s National English daily reported the other day that “Pakistan invited Kashmiri leaders from India-held Kashmir for a meeting in a move that risks further straining efforts to restart a peace dialogue ahead of a rare meeting between top security officials from the nuclear-armed nations. Whereas Indian media supports its government stance, a section of Pakistani media especially print media advances Indian arguments used for blaming Pakistan. It was true New Delhi had cancelled the foreign secretary-level talks in August last year after the Pakistan high commissioner in New Delhi had held consultations with Hurriyat members. But it has been a practice for years to which India showed reservations but never stalled the dialogue. Anyhow, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had raised this issue at UNGA at the 69th session, and blamed India for another missed opportunity to address outstanding issues by cancelling foreign secretaries’ talks in August 2014.
Cancellation of secretary level talks last year was reflective of lack of understanding of the issue and short-sightedness of Narendra Modi’s government. India had called off engagement with Pakistan many times in the past on flimsy grounds, only to realize later that there was no other alternative to the dialogue. Anyhow, Sartaj Aziz and Ajit Doval will work on the agenda for talks; however if India insists on having talks on only matters related to terrorism sans Kashmir, Sir Creek, Siachen, Pakistan would not be interested in resumption of foreign secretary-level dialogue. However Indian Government sources said India’s only focus in the upcoming dialogue was going to be on terrorism. Perhaps it has thrown a feeler to see as to how Pakistan reacts to it. If India does not holding dialogue, it will stand exposed in international community.
Pakistan has always been keen to resolve all outstanding disputes with India through dialogue, but India has either baulked at dialogue or stalled dialogue on one pretext or another. Since 2004, India and Pakistan had many rounds of talks under composite dialogue, but after Mumbai attacks it was India that ended the talks. Even before Mumbai talks, both countries had many round of talks, but to no avail due to India’s intransigence. There are indeed terrorist outfits in India and Pakistan, but to accuse Pakistan of every terror act in India has become more of a norm with Indian government. Indian media had tried to mislead the public by creating an impression that PM Nawaz Sharif highlighted Kashmir dispute at the behest of military establishment, not realizing that Nawaz Sharif himself was wary of Indian intransigence vis-à-vis violations of LoC and earlier cancellation of Secretary-level talks.
Nawaz Sharif has been ardent supporter of improving relations with India. He had attended the oath-taking ceremony of Narendra Modi despite opposition from almost all strata of society. But India is not willing to wean off the hatred against Pakistan. It was India that played an ignominious role in IOK from purported accession of Kashmiri Maharaja to neutralization of Sheikh Abdullah by Nehru followed by increasing Army deployment in Kashmir. Indian heinous acts andatrocities committed on people in Indian Occupied Kashmir were narrated and confirmed by an ex-RAW official RK Yadu in his book “Mission R&AW”. Having that said, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had the desire to have friendly relations with India, and believed that both countries could resolve their disputes through dialogue. But his desire was misperceived as if he was willing to forget about Kashmir or place it on the back burner.
In September 2013, in his address to the UNGA, Nawaz Sharif appeared to have been influenced or misled by the euphoria created by architects of aman ki asha, who had suggested that Pakistan should focus on improving relations through people to people contact, and grant India the status of the Most Favored Nation to allow transit trade to Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics. Had he done it, Pakistan would have lost all the leverage to force India to resolve the disputes between the two countries. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has indeed improved his image by his emphatic calls for resolution of Jammu and Kashmir conflict as imperative for peace, security and economic uplift of South Asians. But international community should play its role by persuading India to hold meaningful dialogue with Pakistan, as non-resolutions of festering disputes between two nuclear states are fraught.
By raising Kashmir dispute in the UN General Assembly in 2014 was emblematic of realization in Islamabad that relations with India could only improve if New Delhi also showed willingness to do so. Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry talking to Pakistani media at a briefing outside the United Nations had said: “If Indians are interested in a meeting, they should approach us now”. Such approach was reflective of change in Pakistan’s previous policy of almost begging for resumption of talks. Since the dialogue was stalled after Mumbai attacks, Pakistan has been fervently trying to start the dialogue. But instead of responding positively, India continued with its intransigence and insisted that first the mastermind of the attack should be tried and executed, evidence or no evidence. On the other hand, Indian government has decided not to challenge the bail granted to Swami Aseemnand, the mastermind of Samjhauta Express carnage.
—The writer is senior journalist based in Lahore.