Unhelpful Redline !

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India has reacted strongly to Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s telephone conversation with Hurriyat-M chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Tuesday. The reports in media have quoted a government official terming the development as one more example of Pakistan’s “duplicity”. The official has also termed the talk between the two leaders “regressive” and contrary to the perception being created by the new Pakistan leadership. 

In the first contact between the new Pakistan government and the Hurriyat leadership, Qureshi called Mirwaiz to brief him on “the efforts of the government of Pakistan to highlight the gross human rights violations” in J&K. The call was also about informing Mirwaiz “about the Kashmir events being organised in London, including at the House of Commons, where these issues will be highlighted”. 

As was but expected, the contact between Pakistan and Hurriyat has made New Delhi see red. NDA government has drawn a red line on meetings between visiting Pakistan government representatives and Hurriyat leaders over the last four-and-half years. In 2014, India had surprisingly called off Foreign Secretary level talks over Pakistan envoy’s invite to separatists. The decision came suddenly when the world was looking forward to a new extended engagement between the two countries.  And considering that both the nations had in place at the time new democratic governments with time on their hands, there was every hope that it could, in the long term, lead to some positive outcome.

But as the time since has proved, nothing has changed in Indo-Pak relations.  In fact, the situation now seems very unhelpful.  New Delhi’s imposition of a new condition that Pakistan stop talking to Hurriyat before the dialogue goes ahead is unhelpful. This has made dialogue, which for the most part has been an exercise for its own sake, almost impossible. For example, giving up on Hurriyat which talks about Kashmir’s political aspirations will not be possible for Pakistan. And at the same time, now  that the BJP government has drawn a red line over such an interaction, it will not be easy for this government to  allow it in future.  So, while the NDA government has run itself out of options so far as the dialogue with Pakistan is concerned, the future government will also not be immune to this constraint. Now that India is looking forward to fresh national election in the middle of this year, there is now no immediate possibility that an engagement could be resurrected in the year ahead. And this is a tragedy. In the absence of any contact, the regional atmosphere will grow more tense with an attendant possibility of an escalation of the conflict. And to ward off such a scenario, the two countries have no option but to find ways and means to get back to an early engagement after elections.  One hopes for a better sense to prevail in Delhi.

 

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