Rajnath Singh says dialogue with Pakistan possible only on PoK: Blow-hot, blow-cold approach characterised recent attempts at talks

  • Rajnath Singh on Sunday said at a rally in Haryana's Kalka that if talks are held with Pakistan they will only be regarding Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

  • While he made the remark in a combative tone, the statement can be construed as a softening of the Central government's stand.

  • Talks between India and Pakistan, whether on terrorism or Jammu and Kashmir, have always taken place in the context of blow-hot, blow-cold bilateral ties.

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said at a rally in Haryana's Kalka that if talks are held with Pakistan they will only be regarding Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). While he made the remark in a combative tone while thumping the podium, the statement can be construed as a softening of the Central government's stand.

Only days ago, Home Minister Amit Shah thundered in Parliament, "Kashmir is an integral part of India, there is no doubt about it. When I say Jammu and Kashmir, I include Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin. Both are included in the territorial boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir."

Shah's statement indicated that there was no place for a debate on India's claim over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. On the other hand, Rajnath's statement suggests the possibility of talks on the portion of Jammu and Kashmir currently occupied by Pakistan.

A look at recent history shows that talks between India and Pakistan, whether on terrorism or Jammu and Kashmir, have always taken place in the context of blow-hot, blow-cold bilateral ties.

Talks under first Modi-led government

The first Narendra Modi-led government began on a positive note as far as India-Pakistan ties are concerned. Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited the then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony, along with other SAARC leaders. Sharif accepted the invitation and his visit paved the way for a short-lived environment of relative peace between the two countries. However, barely two months later, Pakistan carried out at least 19 ceasefire violations in the Jammu and Kashmir sector.

 Rajnath Singh says dialogue with Pakistan possible only on PoK: Blow-hot, blow-cold approach characterised recent attempts at talks

File image of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. News18

In the next year, Modi and Sharif met again, this time on the sidelines of the SCO summit at Ufa in Russia. A joint statement released subsequently said that both of them "condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate this menace from South Asia." Importantly, the statement made no mention of Jammu and Kashmir.

The statement also mentioned that the National Security Advisors (NSAs) of the two countries would meet in New Delhi to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.

However, the ink on the statement had barely dried when three terrorists killed three civilians and four policemen at Punjab's Gurdaspur. The talks between the NSAs were later called off.

In August 2015, former advisor to the Pakistan prime minister on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz cancelled his visit to New Delhi after India refused to allow him to meet with Hurriyat leaders.

On its part, Pakistan said, "Pakistan sees no reason to depart from this established past practice. The Hurriyat leaders are true representatives of the Kashmiri people of Indian-occupied Kashmir."

Months later, former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj met Sharif and Aziz during the Heart of Asia Summit in Islamabad in December 2015. At the time, both sides agreed to a Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue and said that the dialogue would be on "Peace and Security, CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, economic and commercial cooperation, counter-terrorism, narcotics control, humanitarian issues, people-to-people exchanges and religious tourism."

In 2016, talks were again put on the backburner over differences over whether terrorism or Jammu and Kashmir should be the core concern. Pakistan invited S Jaishankar, then foreign secretary to discuss Kashmir. However, Jaishankar turned down the invitation, saying that Pakistan is “prime perpetrator of terrorism in the region.” Soon afterwards, the terror attack at Uri and India's response in the form of surgical strikes put the prospect of bilateral dialogue in deep freeze.

Present situation

Unlike in 2014, Narendra Modi did not extend any invitation to Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan to attend his swearing-in for the second term in 2019. Instead, the Centre invited leaders of BIMSTEC countries, which included Bangladesh.

Ahead of the second Shanghai Cooperation Summit in Bishkek, there were speculations on whether talks will take place between India and Pakistan. However, on 6 June, the Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday confirmed that no meeting has been planned between  Modi and his Pakistani counterpart.

With Rajnath saying that talks can "only be on PoK" and Donald Trump ringing up the prime ministers of both countries, the possibility of dialogue between India and Pakistan cannot be ruled out. However, Islamabad is now even more likely to push for including Kashmir as a point of discussion, given India's recent moves to invalidate Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories.

 

Updated Date: Aug 20, 2019 22:05:49 IST