Indo-Pak stalemate

November 22, 2020

Talks between the two halted after India revoked Article 370, abolishing special status of the IOK. Given the charged environment, it seems unlikely that they will be resumed any time soon

The unprecedented months-long suspension of dialogue - formal talks between Pakistan and India - further complicates relations between the two arch-rivals. There is no backdoor diplomacy under way either: India did not respond to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s conditional offer of peace talks, which indicates that the latter would not be making any gesture for peace for now.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi as well as the analysts TNS spoke to are of the opinion that no dialogue can take place between the two countries unless India lifts the siege in the Indian Occupied Kashmir and restores its special status.

The only communication between the two countries, at present, is through exchange of gunshots at the Line of Control (LoC).

Talks between the two countries halted after India revoked Article 370, thereby abolishing the special status of the IOK, and made it a Union state.

As an icebreaker, Prime Minister Imran Khan extended a conditional offer to India on October 28. He said, “We are ready for peace. But, India will have to lift the military siege of Kashmir and give the right of self-determination to the Kashmiris in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions.” However, his offer did not elicit any positive response from the Indian side.

In the past, in such circumstances, in spite of hostility, the two countries used to hold dialogue through backchannel diplomacy that is also suspended right now.

“No dialogue or talks can take place till India stops atrocities against Kashmiri people and restores Kashmir’s special status,” Qureshi tells The News on Sunday (TNS). We don’t have any kind of talks right now, neither through diplomacy nor backchannel negotiations, he adds.

“It will be pointless to go for a dialogue with India at this point when they’ve done the worst in Kashmir. We can’t betray our Kashmiri brothers,” he says.

Qureshi hopes that Pakistan will manage to press India to think about peace through resolution of the Kashmir issue in line with the UN resolutions.

However, Khaled Ahmad, a former diplomat, analyst and author, says that suspension of dialogue or aggressive statements from both sides are no solution. “Diplomacy is an art that needs soft words and gestures,” he says.

India is not showing strong-headedness in her decision about Kashmir; Pakistan should have handled the issue with active diplomatic efforts but, it did not, says Ahmad.

“The government should’ve evolved a comprehensive diplomatic policy to counter Indian claims at international level. Again, it couldn’t persuade the international community to mount pressure on India; even our friends did not support us,” he says.

Khaled Ahmad, a former diplomat, analyst and author, says that suspension of dialogue or aggressive statements from both sides are no solution. “Diplomacy is an art that needs soft words and gestures,” he says. 

Mainstream Indian media too does not seem to support dialogue or talks with Pakistan. However, some moderate Indian journalists opine that talks between the two countries should not be stopped. But, they also feel that the Modi government will not be interested in such an initiative for various reasons.

“Personally, I don’t think talks will resume soon. This is being perceived in India as a distraction tactic from Imran Khan and PTI. The one positive thing is Pakistan government’s invitation to Sikh pilgrims to visit Nangana Sahib. Religious tourism is a good start,” Rishi Suri, the editor of daily Milap, the largest Urdu newspaper in India, tells TNS.

To a question on Modi’s mindset about talks, he says that the BJP is “contesting important state elections this year. It will not take any chances by starting talks right now”. Also, he adds, “with things on the India-China border still hot, it’s highly unlikely for India to accept any offer for talks”.

In an abrupt move, India released Mehbooba Mufti, chairperson of People’s Democratic Party and a former chief minister of IOK after almost 14 months’ detention. Soon after her release, she posted a video on Twitter in which she pledged to continue her struggle for the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. She called the August 5, 2019, decision of declaring IOK a Union territory “a daylight robbery”.

“We all have to pledge that we will take back what was taken unlawfully, undemocratically and unconstitutionally on August 5 last year. We will also have to work for the resolution of the Kashmir issue for which thousands of people have sacrificed their lives,” she said in the message.

The very next day, former IOK chief minister Omar Abdullah and his father Farooq Abdullah, the National Conference chairman, called on Mufti and inquired about her health.

Lt Gen Amjad Shoaib (retired), a defence analyst, sees the release of Mufti and her words as part of the Indian government strategy.

“I have credible information that India is sick and tired of the situation in IOK and wants to restore its special status. For this it needs some justification. To this end, it has released Mufti. She is closely working with Omar and Farooq Abdullah,” Shoaib tells TNS.

“Mufti vows, and Abdullahs are demanding restoration of special status. They will provide a justification to the BJP government to restore IOK’s special status. India knows well that the IOK as a Union territory would remain a boiling pot. Now, Mufti and Abdullahs will give the BJP a face-saving,” he says.

“Pakistan will never hold talks till India withdraws its decision and restores the special status of the IOK,” he says.

Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi, a former Punjab chief minister, is not hopeful about the possibility of Pak-India talks in the near future.

“How can Pakistan a dialogue when India has made all IOK hostage and violated the UN resolutions by revoking Article 370?” he asks.

He says Imran Khan’s offer of talks to Modi will not be accepted. Meanwhile, gunshots are exchanged at the border, and peaceful negotiations continue to remain a distant hope.

The writer is a senior journalist and analyst @BukhariMubasher

Indo-Pak stalemate: It is unlikely that talks between India, Pakistan will resume any time soon