If the BJP applauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first bilateral talks on Friday with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa, Russia, saying that it has produced a “glimmer of light” in the bilateral relationship, the Congress dismissed it as neither historic nor a breakthrough.
Worrying for the BJP was that its NDA ally Shiv Sena refused to share the ruling party’s enthusiasm on the issue: “It is unfortunate that Modiji met Nawaz Sharif,” Sena president Uddhav Thackeray told presspersons in Mumbai, pointing out that there had been no change in conditions [on the border]. “I feel he [Modi] is capable of changing the current situation and the neighbouring country needs to be taught a lesson in a manner it understands,” he said.
Describing the meeting’s outcome as a dilution of India’s long-held positions on terrorism and commitments extracted from Pakistan on the issue, the former Union Minister Anand Sharma accused the Modi government of inconsistency in dealing with Pakistan: “….while External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in June that there would be no talks with Pakistan, the PM suddenly has a meeting with Sharif,” he said.
The government’s claims of a breakthrough, he said, were laughable, underscoring the fact that the Prime Minister has not disclosed what Mr. Sharif or Chinese President Xi Jinping told him on Bejing’s support to Islamabad on the Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi issue at the U.N.
Noting that there had been skirmishes on the border as recently as Thursday, Mr. Sharma said the Congress objected to the joint statement: “All evidence including voice samples have been given to Pakistan in the dossier. This statement is a departure and dilution. We would like to ask the PM why he conceded that we have not given evidence. This justifies Pakistan’s intransigence.”
Earlier, the PDP expressed hope that the two countries would carry forward the J&K-specific confidence building measures: “We laud the efforts made by our Prime Minister and also the bold response offered by his Pakistan counterpart,” senior PDP leader and Education Minister Naeem Akther said.
Former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, however, added several notes of caution. “I only hope that this time it is sustained over the long term for results,” he tweeted, underscoring, “We expect that in spite of Pakistan not mentioning Kashmir at all, the issue of Kashmir will receive its due attention going ahead.” There have been too many breaks in this process, he continued, “to allow today’s announcements to excite us much here in the valley but it’s a good 1st step.” Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the joint statement “shows signs of positive movement.”