October 20, 2016Print : Top Story
Says people-to-people contacts to continue
ISLAMABAD: Stepping down from its high pedestal after failing to isolate Pakistan at the recent BRICS summit in Goa, New Delhi reached out to Islamabad on Wednesday and stated that people-to-people contacts will continue as India has no plans to stop them.
Pakistan, meanwhile, completely ignored this olive branch, and has made it crystal clear that any future dialogue will have to be centralised around the issue of Kashmir even if it is New Delhi that decides when the bilateral talks will take place.
Instead, the Foreign Office Spokesperson claimed that India violated the ceasefire twice along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Karela sector of the disputed valley. The United Nations, too, was critical of the Modi government when a group of UN experts on Wednesday called on the government of India to immediately release human rights defender Khurram Parvez.
Trying to tone down its rhetoric where it had succeeded in raising anti-Pakistan feelings all over India, Indian Foreign Secretary Jaishankar told his Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs, “We had been engaging with Pakistan and would do so in future. But right now, we don’t have any fixed calendar even for talks at the secretary-level. Engagement with Pakistan diplomatically in future was on the table but the date and time of any such engagement would be of New Delhi’s choosing.”
The Modi government has also tried to soften its stand from the time when it recklessly chose to blame Pakistan for the Uri attack without any proof, and then shying away from providing any evidence to Indians that it had carried out a surgical strike deep inside the Pakistani territory.
Jaishankar says, “People-to-people contacts will continue and there is no plan to stop it.” According to the Indian media, when asked by members of the panel if India wanted to resume the dialogue with its “hostile western neighbour”, the foreign secretary said that it would do so in future.
The secretary also said that surgical strikes on militant bases in Azad Kashmir last month had given Islamabad “a taste of what India is capable of”. He confirmed that Indian forces had conducted targeted operations across the Line ofControl (LoC) but that it was not publicised. “If you are asking whether our troops crossed the LoC and conducted calibrated operations before, the answer is yes. If you are asking if they achieved their targets and returned to India, the answer is also yes,” Jaishankar was quoted as saying.
If Pakistan ignored Jaishankar’s proposals, it did not go unnoticed by the Congress party, which had a bone to pick about the Foreign Secretary remarks that the Army had carried out “target specific, limited-calibre, counter-terrorist operations” across LoC in the past too, to “expose” the BJP and Modi government’s “lie” on the recent surgical strikes.
The party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala hoped that Jaishanker would not get “axed” like his predecessor Sujatha Singh for “speaking the truth” and “exposing BJP’s deception”.
Meanwhile, according to a statement from the Foreign Office, a group of United Nations experts Wednesday called on the government of India to immediately release human rights defender Khurram Parvez, arrested last month for alleged activities against public order. Mr Parvez is the coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCSS), and the chairperson of the Asian Federation against Involuntary is appearances (AFAD).
“Mr Parvez is a well-known and outspoken human rights defender who has had a longstanding and positive engagement with the UN human rights mechanisms,” the experts said. “His continued detention following his arrest just a few days before his participation in the UN Human Rights Council, suggests a deliberate attempt to obstruct his legitimate human rights activism.”
On September 14, Mr Parvez was on his way to Geneva to attend the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council when he was prevented from traveling out of India by airport authorities in Delhi. He was then detained on September 16 under sections 107 and 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code, released on September 20, yet detained again the same day. He remains today in preventive detention, under the highly controversial Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act.
The UN experts conveyed their concerns to the government of India, but the official information received so far does not provide clear details on the exact nature of the charges against Mr Parvez, which seem to rely mainly on vague accusations of alleged ‘anti-India’ activities, aimed at disrupting the public order.
“We are concerned at the use of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act against Mr Parvez, which permits administrative detention without judicial intervention for up to two years,” the experts highlighted.
We have received allegations of this law often being arbitrarily applied to target human rights defenders,” they added, noting with alarm the lack of clarity as to why the Indian authorities have deemed it necessary to address this case outside the country’s ordinary laws.
On October 13, a petition challenging Mr Parvez’s detention under the Public Safety Act was listed before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, yet the case has only been listed for hearing until October 25.
“In a democratic society, the open criticism of government is a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression of every person,” the experts stressed. “We are seriously concerned that the arrest of Mr Parvez may represent a direct retaliation for his legitimate activities as a human rights defender and the exercise of his fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and association”, they concluded.