By Aasha Khosa
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called Pakistan's bluff by calling off the foreign secretary level talks between India and Pakistan scheduled for 25 August. The no-nonsense stand — you either talk to separatists or to India — is a clear signal that India is abandoning its muddle-headed approach towards Pakistan, particularly on the contentious issue of Jammu & Kashmir. Modi's stand also marks a reversal of the policy of Atal Behari Vajpayee which turned a blind eye to Islamabad's clear breach of diplomatic protocol involved in the meeting of Kashmiri separatists with visiting Pakistan dignitaries in Delhi.
This decision comes in the wake of Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit holding the first of the meetings with separatist leaders from the Valley. Shabir Shah, Kashmir's much jailed leader who now heads one of the three factions of the separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference, was the first to meet Basit.
Speaking to Firstpost before the meeting, Shah had heaped praises on Modi. He had said given his stature and track record, Modi was the separatists' best bet for bringing a lasting resolution to the Kashmir issue. "Narendra Modi has all the personal qualities of a leader who can think big. He is also amidst the best circumstances to deliver. Nobody can challenge his decision and wisdom," Shah had told the website before the meeting. He had said that Modi had all the opportunity to play a historic role and be remembered for bringing a lasting and humane solution to the Kashmir issue.
Shah along with hardliner Sayeed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik, chief, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, and Mirwiaz Umer Farooq is in Delhi on the invite of the Pakistani High Commissioner Adul Basit. Shah and others had been invited over telephone for 'consultations' before the 25 August Indo-Pak foreign secretary level talks. "We have not been given any agenda and would know about it only when we meet the High commissioner," the separatists had said.
All the four Kashmiri separatists were supposed to meet Basset separately over two days. "Initially when Hurriyat was one, we would meet any visiting Pakistani leader as a group but later we meet them separately." Shah said. The trend of Kashmiri separatists being invited to the Pakistan High Commission, in total disregard of all the diplomatic protocol and public perception in the world’s largest democracy, was started in 1995 when the Pakistan Prime Minister Farooq Ahmed Laghari visited India. All later Indian governments had reconciled to this intransigence.
However, diplomatic tension had flared up in 2001, during the high profile meeting between General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. New Delhi was keen that Kashmiri leaders do not spoil the party and had advised its guests accordingly. However, a defiant Musharraf had refused to budge from his decision and made India buckle.
However, sources said, that New Delhi had effectively used these meetings to push the Hurriyat to the centre stage of the Kashmir issue. "This was seen as a better situation than allowing the armed militants to rule the roost in Kashmir," a veteran Kashmir hand told Firstpost, seeking anonymity. Musharraf, in his memorirs, has also talked about how he had advised the Hurriyat leaders to come to the negotiating table in Delhi.
The Congress, which made the maximum noise before the meeting of Hurriyat leaders with Basit, surprisingly has taken a U-turn. Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari had tweeted, "Pak High Comm feting separatists, Pak Army intruding across the border, ISI attacking Indian Consulate in Herat BJP govt sleeps Ache Din Agaye". Now, after the cancellation of the secretary-level meet it is caught in a bind. It can no more accuse Modi of being no different from the UPA in his approach to the Kashmir issue.
The Indian government's decision would certainly lead to a shift in diplomatic relation between the neigbouring countries and the terms of engagement between the countries. Would there be tit-for-tat reaction from Pakistan? Well, it's wait and watch time.
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Updated Date: Aug 19, 2014 07:19:09 IST