New Delhi: After Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke to Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale summoned Pakistani high commissioner Sohail Mahmood on Wednesday. Gokhale warned Mahmood that the “persistence” of such actions will have “grave implications”.
On Tuesday, Qureshi appraised the Mirwaiz of the “efforts of the government of Pakistan to highlight the gross human rights violations” in Kashmir by Indian security forces.
Consequently, Gokhale gave a dressing down to Mahmood on Wednesday night.
“The Foreign Secretary conveyed the Government of India’s condemnation in the strongest terms of this latest brazen attempt by Pakistan to subvert India’s unity and to violate our sovereignty and territorial integrity, by none other than the Pakistan Foreign Minister,” said an MEA press note.
The phone call was apparently the first time that a minister of the Pakistan government under Prime Minister Imran Khan had reached out directly to a Kashmiri leader in India.
In a late night reaction, the Pakistan government rejected India’s outraged protest and claimed that similar contact had taken place earlier.
“Pakistan is committed to extending its political, diplomatic and moral support to the people of occupied Jammu & Kashmir. The leadership in Pakistan has always been communicating with the Kashmiri leadership. This is not anything new,” said a statement from Pakistan’s foreign office.
Summoning a high commissioner is an unusually strong step in diplomatic terms. Due to conflict over cross-border firing, Pakistani and Indian diplomats have visited the other’s foreign offices frequently, but it has been largely kept at the level of deputy high commissioner.
“The Pakistan High Commissioner was categorically informed by the Foreign Secretary that the Government of India expects Pakistan to desist forthwith from such actions. He was cautioned that persistence of such behaviour by Pakistan will have implications,” said the press communique.
Describing the phone call as a “deplorable act”, the MEA said that it “violated all norms for the conduct of international relations even by Pakistan’s own standards”.
“The Pakistan Foreign Minister’s actions are tantamount to direct interference in the internal affairs of its neighbour,” it added.
Pakistan’s action had confirmed that it “official abets and encourages individuals associated with terrorism and anti-India activities,” Gokhale conveyed to Mahmood, as per the official read-out of the meeting
“It has exposed to the entire international community Pakistan’s duplicity in professing their desire for normal relations with India on the one hand, while openly inciting anti-India activities on the other,” said the press release.
Gokhale also informed Mahmood that Pakistan has “no locus standi in any matters related to the State of Jammu and Kashmir”, since the entire province “is and shall remain the integral part of India”.
Rejecting Indian objections to the phone call, the Pakistani foreign office said that Kashmir remained “an outstanding dispute” and cited UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements to argue this point.
“We also categorically reject any insinuation that seeks to project as “terrorism” the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiri people for self-determination. This is an outright travesty,” said the Pakistani statement.
It added that Pakistan will continue support till the Kashmir dispute is resolved in accordance with UNSC resolutions and “wishes of the people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir”.
In August 2014, India had called off the visit of then foreign secretary Sujatha Singh to Islamabad after the Pakistani high commissioner met with Hurriyat leaders in Delhi. The freeze in relations was broken only after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise stopover in Lahore in December 2015.
Contact at the leadership level is still suspended, though there have been some recent lower-level bilateral visits. A Pakistani minister had attended former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s funeral, while two Indian ministers witnessed the launch ceremony of the construction of the Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan.
But even while agreeing to the construction of the trans-border Kartarpur corridor, India had reiterated that this did not mark the resumption of a dialogue process.
As India enters a poll campaign period that is likely to be polarising, there is no realistic possibility of a thaw between the two countries till the end of parliamentary elections.