On Christmas 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave one of the biggest surprises in India's diplomatic history, when he chose to have a stopover at Lahore to personally wish his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his 66th birthday and also attend his granddaughter's wedding at his palatial house at Raiwind. Exactly a year later, all that Modi did to wish Sharif was a tweet:
Birthday wishes to Pakistan PM Mr. Nawaz Sharif. I pray for his long and healthy life.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 25, 2016
The tweet may be an indicator of the deterioration in the bilateral ties between the two countries. Soon after the surprise visit last Christmas, the Pathankot Air Force station was attacked on 2 January. In a gunbattle with security forces, four militants, who allegedly entered the area in army fatigues, were gunned down. The Indian Air Force lost three of its personnel. United Jihad Council claimed responsibility for the attack.
In Pathankot today, our security forces once again demonstrated their valour. I salute their sacrifice.https://t.co/jqcIYiflzE
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 2, 2016
India later nailed ISI's hand in the attack, while Pakistan denied the accusations. However, after initially promising to allow a National Investigation Agency team to visit Pakistan to probe the attack, Islamabad backtracked. This was after an ISI probe team visited Pathankot, which was criticised by the Opposition.
While Pathankot probe was underway, Kulbhushan Yadav, an alleged Indian Navy officer, was arrested by Pakistani authorities on charges of spying. With this Balochistan came into the picture in the India-Pakistan bilateral ties. While India claimed he was a businessman, Pakistan alleged he was spying on the behalf of RAW in Balochistan and Karachi.
The decline in the bilateral ties hastened after Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter in Kashmir. His killing led to widespread unrest across the valley, with the security forces imposing curfew which remained enforced till October. It gave Pakistan a chance to raise the issue of India's alleged human rights violations in the state.
On 10 August, Sharif held a cabinet meeting to discuss the Kashmir unrest, with the cabinet deciding to internationalise the issue. The meeting observed that "Kashmir remains an unfinished agenda of the United Nations and accordingly India must realise that Kashmir is not its internal matter, rather it is a matter of regional and international concern".
With the unrest in Kashmir, Modi invoked the alleged human rights violations in Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan during his Independence Day address to the nation. The reference made Pakistan to claim that this proved its contention that India has been allegedly "fomenting terrorism" in the province.
Sharif chose to hit back at India during his address to the United Nations General Assembly.
Sharif said, "Peace and normalisation between Pakistan and India cannot be achieved without a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. This is an objective evaluation, not a partisan position."
"Our predictions have now been confirmed by events. A new generation of Kashmiris has risen spontaneously against India's illegal occupation — demanding freedom from occupation. Burhan Wani, the young leader murdered by Indian forces, has emerged as the symbol of the latest Kashmiri Intifada, a popular and peaceful freedom movement, led by Kashmiris, young and old, men and women, armed only with an undying faith in the legitimacy of their cause, and a hunger for freedom in their hearts."
Rebutting Sharif, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told the gathering at the UNGA that Pakistan had been ignoring the human rights violation in Balochistan. "In the last two years, in exchange of our friendship, we got Pathankot, Uri, Bahadur Ali. Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and it will remain so, she added.
India strongly condemned the reference to the slain militant and criticised Islamabad silence over the recent Uri attack. Speaking at the UN, India's First Secretary Eenam Gambhir, called Pakistan a host to the "Ivy League of terrorism" and urged the world community to declare Pakistan a "terrorist state".
Pak PM Sharif at #UNGA glorifies Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani in UN's highest forum. Shows continued Pak attachment to terrorism.
— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) September 21, 2016
Pak PM Sharif at #UNGA in complete denial of Uri terror attack. 19 infiltration attempts stopped at LoC this year. Indigenous??!!
— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) September 21, 2016
Uri attack, which India referred to after Sharif's speech at the UN, took place on 18 September. Heavily armed militants stormed a battalion headquarters of the Army in North Kashmir's Uri town in the wee hours, killing 17 jawans and injuring 19 other personnel. Four militants were also neutralised. Fingers were pointed once again at Pakistan.
We strongly condemn the cowardly terror attack in Uri. I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 18, 2016
With the clamour for avenging Uri, India conducted "surgical strikes" over terror launchpads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The strikes — refuted by Pakistan, which even sent journalists to the area where the attack allegedly took place — escalated tensions on the border, with Pakistan even capturing an Indian soldier.
Three months after the attack by India's special commandos, cross-border firing between the two countries is still going on.
Meanwhile, India decided to turn on the heat on the diplomatic front. Modi called Pakistan the "mothership' of terrorism" during his address at the Brics Summit at Goa in October.
In the Goa Declaration, the five member countries of Brics asked all countries to prevent terrorist actions from their soil. It called for expeditious adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) by the UN to tackle the problem and step up practical cooperation against terrorism.
The member countries also condemned the recent attacks against some Brics countries, including that in India. "We agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating international terrorism both at the bilateral level and at international fora," the Goa Declaration issued at the end of the summit said.
India also pulled out of the Saarc Summit, which was scheduled to be held in Islamabad. The refusal to participate, along with several other member-states, citing Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism, led to it being delayed indefinitely.
The Modi government took another step to rein in Pakistan, threatening to abrogate the World Bank- assisted Indus Waters Treaty. Modi is reported to have told a meeting convened on this issue, "Blood and water can’t flow together". Pakistan reacted to this news sharply.
"India set to wage war against Pakistan," screamed a headline of a Pakistani newspaper, The Nation.
Shireen Mazari, former journalist and leader of Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf party, went to the extent of saying that India’s "suspension of the treaty" was the first step towards declaring (a real) war against Pakistan. Speaking in Pakistan’s National Assembly on Monday, she demanded an immediate response to India from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The Indus Waters Treaty has now become a major bone of contention between the two countries now, with the World Bank urging both countries to sort out their issues through alternative means.
Clearly, it seems relations between the two nations have gone downhill in the last one year. With a new army chief in Rawalpindi and India acting tough on terrorism post the surgical strikes, relations might remain tense in 2017.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Dec 26, 2016 13:58:23 IST