External Affairs

India, Pakistan Stalemate on FS-level Talks on Kashmir

“They made an offer, we have responded to the offer. It is up to them to carry it forward”, says India as Pakistan insists its invitation for “dialogue on Kashmir (was) in in view of the gross human rights violations there.”

The brains trust of Indian foreign policy today: Foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, national security adviser Ajit Doval, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Credit: PTI

File photo of foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, national security adviser Ajit Doval, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: India on Thursday reiterated its view that foreign secretary S. Jaishankar’s acceptance of his Pakistani counterpart’s offer of talks on Kashmir is contingent on the discussions focussing only on ending cross-border terrorism, as well as, the “vacation” of the “illegal occupation” of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Jaishankar’s reply to Pakistani foreign secretary Aziz Ahmed Chaudhry’s offer was delivered on Wednesday. Sources on Wednesday had already indicated the contents of the letter but there had been no official confirmation for the media.

In the first public statement about India’s response, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that Jaishankar, while accepting the invitation, made it clear that discussions “should focus first on the more pressing aspects” of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to Swarup, these were spelled out in following five points:

  1. Cessation of cross-border terrorism by Pakistan aimed at Jammu and Kashmir.
  2. Ending incitement to violence and terrorism from Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.
  3. Detaining and prosecuting internationally recognised Pakistani terrorist leaders who have been publicly active recently in exhorting and supporting such violence in that state.
  4. Closing down of Pakistani terrorist camps where terrorists such as Bahadur Ali, recently arrested in Jammu and Kashmir, continue to be trained.
  5. Denying safe haven, shelter and support to terrorists in Pakistan who have escaped Indian law.

Further, Jaishankar said that he “looks forward to discussing with his counterpart the earliest possible vacation of Pakistan’s illegal occupation of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir”. The foreign secretary also asked for a briefing on the progress made by Pakistan against those involved in  the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack and the January 2016 Pathankot air base attack.

Besides, Jaishankar asserted that Pakistan’s “self-serving allegations made in their communication are rejected in their entirety by the Government of India”. “Pakistan has no locus standi in respect of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of our nation,” he added.

Swarup said Pakistan’s “approach to India was reflected in support for terrorist activities in Jammu & Kashmir that continues to the present day” right since 1947.

“These acts were initially denied by the Government of Pakistan and attributed to the local population, only to be admitted later by Pakistan’s leaders who directed and organised such cross-border attacks on India, and assaults on the local people,” he said.

India stated that with Jaishankar’s letter, the “ball was in Pakistan’s court”. “They had made an offer, We have responded to the offer. It is up to them to carry it forward”.

In Islamabad, the Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson Nafees Zakaria did not state that the offer for talks had been formally rescinded. However, he insisted that  committed by Indian forces in Indian occupied Kashmir.”

Why Balochistan

In his weekly briefing, Swarup also explained that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inclusion of a reference Balochistan in his independence speech was only based on the response to his statement at the all-party meeting on Kashmir on August 12.

“Several people from Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan had messaged him, had been writing to him following his comments at the all-party meeting on the 12th of August in which he had flagged the atrocities being committed on the people of Balochistan.  The prime minister had been thanked by these people for flagging their cause in the all party meeting which represents all political segments in India.  The prime minister was sufficiently moved by these messages of gratitude to share it with the people of India at his Independence Day address,” Swarup said.

Denying that there was a major “policy shift”, he added that Indian government had made statements about the situation in Balochistan in the past as well, but admittedly not at the level of Prime Minister.

“The only difference this time was that the various messages the prime minister had received had sufficiently moved him to share it with the people of India,” he said.

Swarup deflected questions on what steps will be taken by the Indian government. “The prime minister also gave us certain instructions in the all-party meet. How those instructions will be implemented, I cannot at this stage share with you. However, the MEA will do what it has to do because after all the people of PoK are our own people,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Tareq Fatemi, the Pakistani prime minister’s special assistant on foreign affairs, had stated that Modi had crossed a “red line” by mentioning Balochistan in his speech.

The Indian foreign ministry spokesperson said that it was an “extraordinary remark from a senior functionary of Pakistan that recognises no red lines in its own diplomacy … Pakistan’s record of cross-border terrorism and infiltration is at the heart of the problems in the region today.  And this not just India’s view.  You can ask some other countries in the region too.”

Relations with UNHRC

As reported earlier, both India and Pakistan had turned down the request from United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein for access to Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The UN human rights chief regretted the rejection in a statement on Wednesday.

The request from the UNHRC was first made public by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj at the all-party meeting on August 12, which unanimously agreed to reject the demand.

Swarup also added on Thursday that the Indian permanent mission in Geneva had “constructively engaged” with the office of UN high commissioner for human rights to “project the correct picture”, after the request for a visit was received.

The UN Human rights body was also told by Indian diplomats how “Indian institutions, like the judiciary, press, civil society and parliament, kicked in to provide normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Since that briefing, at least one civil society organisation – Amnesty India – has had criminal cases filed against it following a meeting it organised on the crisis in Kashmir in Bangalore.

“The fact that Pakistan has not allowed permission to the UNHRC to visit POK where people have been denied basic freedom, is a message in itself,” he added.

In Islamabad, the exact mirror question was asked to the Pakistani foreign ministry spokesperson, but only about India turning down the UNHRC’s request.

“We have already invited the world’s attention to the issue of grave human rights violations in IoK. Adviser Sartaj Aziz had earlier written a letter in this regard to UN Human Rights Commissioner in Geneva. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also wrote to the UN high commissioner on human rights, urging him to send a fact finding mission to IoK.  India is carrying out blatant violations of human rights in Kashmir for the last 40 days. They have refused the UNHCR’s visit to Kashmir, which clearly  indicates that Indian atrocities will be fully exposed,” Zakaria said. He made no mention of the fact that the UNHRC had also approached Pakistan for a visit to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.