Elusive Engagement

INDIA on Wednesday called upon Pakistan to “vacate all areas” of Jammu and Kashmir under its illegal occupation.  India’s counsellor in the country’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations  R. Madhu Sudan took serious exception to Pakistan after Islamabad’s envoy to the UN Munir Akram raked up the issue of Jammu and Kashmir during an UNSC Open Debate on ‘Protection of civilians in armed conflict: Wars in cities - protection of civilians in urban settings’ on Tuesday. In response, Madhu Sudan said that India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir "was, is and shall forever" remain an integral part of the country. He also advised Pakistan to accept the reality and stop all anti-India propaganda. India’s counsellor also brought up terrorism in Pakistan saying that most terrorist attacks around the world have their origin, in some form or the other, in that country.

India always brings up terrorism sponsored from across the border and Pakistan makes counter accusations and also seeks to highlight the situation in Kashmir. This acrimonious exchange is a routine spectacle at the United Nations where the mutually antagonistic positions are ritualistically rehearsed at various meetings.

If anything, it also underlines the lingering estrangement between the neighbours that has further deepened since New Delhi's withdrawal of Article 370 in August 2019. Situation can be expected to improve if the leaders of the two countries deem it in their core interest to engage.

And if not then we can only hope that the current climate of distrust and antagonism doesn’t lead to further escalation of tensions. More so, when due to suspended talks, the two countries lack the diplomatic tools to manage the fallout. It is therefore important that the two countries get back to the dialogue and work towards the resolution of their longstanding issues for durable peace in the region.

Incidentally, Madhu Sudan did indicate India’s willingness to engage in dialogue with Pakistan. He said India desires normal neighbourly relations with all countries, including Pakistan, and is committed to addressing outstanding issues, if any, bilaterally and peacefully in accordance with the Simla Agreement and the Lahore declaration. But he reiterated India’s policy that any meaningful dialogue can be held only in an atmosphere “free of terror, hostility and violence”. The onus, he added, is on Pakistan to create such a conducive atmosphere and warned that until this does not happen, India will continue “to take firm and decisive steps to respond to cross-border terrorism,"  This doesn’t give much of a hope that the things will change for the better in near future. More so, when the governments in the two countries have less time left before another general election takes place. More so, in the case of Pakistan.

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