Cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan should be the first topic to be taken up for any India-Pakistan talks, said External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
Asserting that the world understands why India has undertaken recent steps in Kashmir, Mr. Jaishankar emphasised that ending the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was an internal matter.
“What should come on the table first of all is the terrorism issue,” he said, addressing the media to mark the completion of the first hundred days of the current Indian government. “Because that is the root cause of the state of the relationship [with Pakistan].The issue is not Article 370. The issue is Pakistan’s terrorism. There has to be a recognition of that,” added Mr. Jaishankar, asserting that Pakistan openly uses cross-border terrorism as a tool to advance its foreign policy goals.
The minister’s comment sets the Indian agenda for the upcoming UN General Assembly, where the country’s diplomatic team is expected to defend Indian actions regarding Kashmir. Mr. Jaishankar is expected to participate in the foreign minister-level meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on September 26 where the Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is also scheduled to be present. Mr. Jaishankar did not rule out any meeting with his Pakistan counterpart saying, “We will see when that happens.”
The Indian minister contended that the world understood New Delhi’s case on Jammu and Kashmir.
“Article 370 was a temporary provision and it had become dysfunctional. It was being arbitraged by a narrow set of people for their gains and by doing that they were impeding development and that lack of development was feeding a sense of separatism and that separatism actually has been utilised by Pakistan to carry out cross-border terrorism,” said Mr. Jaishankar.
He argued that the Centre had two options regarding the situation in Kashmir and said one policy had failed in the last three decades; the second option was to do things differently in Kashmir. The first option, he said, had had “costs and casualties” .
The minister also indirectly addressed the growing criticism coming from some members of the U.S. Congress regarding the continuing lockdown of Kashmir that India has imposed since August 5 and remarked that members of the U.S. Congress were known to opine on issues without proper understanding.
“[Members of] U.S. Congress say a lot of things. What they say is not necessarily a function of the knowledge on that particular subject. Sometimes they could have a view and mostly the views could be transposed from their own experience,” said Mr. Jaishankar announcing that he expected to visit the U.S. capital soon. Mr. Jaishankar also struck a combative note and cited examples from American history to argue in favour of the communications lockdown and prolonged curfew in Kashmir.
“If I were to meet a member of the U.S. Congress, I would ask them, look you have confronted terrorism, what was your response, you have confronted separatism, what was your response?”