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August 23, 2019

No more talks


August 23, 2019

In what is being described as his first interview to a major international publication, Prime Minister Imran Khan has told the New York Time that he will not be attempting to make any further offer of talks or dialogue to India. The prime minister has said that he had made these offers in good faith and for the sake of the region. However, it appeared they had been misinterpreted in India. Imran also said that any threat from India would now be met by actions other than words.

This stance by Pakistan’s leaders takes the two countries farther away from possibility of negotiations. India has rejected Imran’s claims that he had made every possible effort to maintain peace and said that the only way Pakistan could demonstrate genuinely peaceful intentions was by tackling terrorism. There is then apparently even less hope of any kind of bilateral engagement between the two South Asian countries than at any previous time since Modi won his second term in office last year. The recent annulment of Article 370 of the Indian constitution by India, which effectively annexes Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian union, has heightened tensions between the two countries. There can be little doubt that Imran’s repeated offers of peace since he took office one year ago were well-intentioned and aimed at ending the standoff between New Delhi and Islamabad. The aggressive stance of the Modi government means they have had no impact. There had been hope within the government that Modi’s reelection could help resolve the Kashmir issue. Of course, given the turn of events, the opposite has happened.

With at least 6000 Kashmiris in detention and severe human rights abuses being reported from the area, Pakistan needs to demonstrate it is willing and able to support the Kashmiris. As PM Imran said, it is quite evident there is now almost no scope left for direct talks with Modi. Third-country intervention and arbitration is desperately needed. The question for Khan will be how Pakistan can muster up the clout to make this possible. While US President Donald Trump has expressed some remote interest in the issue it does not appear that Washington is willing to act as mediator. Indeed none of the permanent members of the UNSC are ready to take on this role. Given the context, Pakistan needs to develop new strategies to place pressure on India and on the rest of the world to prevent a human rights catastrophe from unfolding in Kashmir.

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