Lobbing the ball for dialogue back into Pakistan’s court, India said that Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar was “willing” to travel to Islamabad to discuss “cross-border terror in Kashmir”, but not to discuss Kashmir itself, as Pakistan had proposed. In a letter handed over to Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhury by High Commissioner Gautam Bhambawale on Wednesday, the government said any talks would have to focus on terror.
“Since aspects related to cross-border terrorism are central to the current situation in J&K, we have proposed that discussions between the Foreign Secretaries be focussed on them,” government sources said about their response to Pakistan’s invitation for talks on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. “We have also conveyed that GoI rejects in their entirety the self-serving allegations regarding the situation in J&K, which is an integral part of India where Pakistan has no locus standi,” the sources added.
Underlining India’s position in an address to journalists, the Foreign Secretary also referred to the “centrality of the issue of terrorism” when discussing India’s difficulties in dealing with Pakistan within South Asia.
“Looking at the neighbourhood, we clearly face a unique challenge in respect to one country which is Pakistan,” Mr. Jaishankar told members of the foreign correspondents club in Delhi.
He said that despite a “great” effort to reach out to Pakistan by the Modi government, India has faced several terror attacks which have made “the relationship difficult to grow.”
‘Too early to tell if India will raise Balochistan issue at world fora’
A senior member of the government said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to Balochistan during his Independence Day speech, as well as his earlier statement that “Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against people in Balochistan and PoK,” had not come “out of the blue.”
“The PM had been ruminating about the excesses committed there, so it was a natural remark,” the official added, but said it was “premature” to tell whether India will now take up the issue of Balochistan human rights at the international stage.
With battle lines clearly drawn between India and Pakistan, the immediate impact is likely to be seen on the SAARC conference that is due to be hosted in Islamabad this year. While officials maintained that it is “unlikely” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley would travel to Pakistan for the SAARC finance ministers conference on August 25, they also remained non-committal on Mr. Modi’s visit for the SAARC summit. “When a country regularly sends uninvited guests [terrorists] to you, the visit of the PM to that country will be decided on a policy basis,” the key official said.