KARACHI: India is unable to hide its frustration over Pakistan’s aggressive diplomacy on the use of brute force by security forces in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. “People living in glass houses should not be throwing stones at others,” India’s top envoy said at an interactive session organised by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations on Monday.
Gautam Bambawale, India’s high commissioner in Islamabad, called Kashmir an ‘internal matter’ of India. “There are problems in both India and Pakistan and you [Pakistan] should focus on resolving your problems before looking into the problems of other countries,” he added.
Dozens of people have been killed and thousands injured by Indian security forces in an unsuccessful attempt to quell an uprising triggered by the killing of a popular Kashmiri separatist leader Burhan Wani by Indian police in July.
Bambawale chose to dodge questions about the recent remarks by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Balochistan and Gilgi-Baltistan. “The prime minister, in his August 15 independence day speech, only referred to the letters he had received,” he added.
Modi claimed that he had received ‘letters of thanks’ from the people of Balchistan and G-B for raising voice in their favour. Analysts call it an attempt by the Indian leader to counter Pakistan’s aggressive diplomacy on Kashmir which boomeranged as rallies were subsequently staged across Balochistan against Modi’s remarks.
Asked about Kulbushan Jadhav, the RAW agent arrested in Balochistan earlier this year, Bambawale said New Delhi has been very clear on the matter. “After the arrest was made we said he [Jadhav] was an Indian national but does not work for any government organisation,” he added. “We asked for consular access to Jadhav, but our request was turned down by Pakistan.”
Jadhav has admitted in a video confession that he was a serving Indian navy commander and worked for RAW to foment trouble in Balochistan and Karachi.
In an attempt to counter Jadhav’s confession, Bambawale said security forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir had also arrested a ‘Pakistani man’ he identified as Bahadur Ali who confessed to his involvement in creating unrest in the region.
New Delhi blames Pakistan for the ongoing unrest in Kashmir – a claim recently dismissed by a former RAW chief. “There has been anger simmering [in Kashmir] for a long time and we [India] did not take cognisance of it. That anger just needed a spark, and Burhan Wani did that,” AS Dulat told India’s The Economic Times newspaper in an interview.
Pakistan says India, through its top spy agency RAW, is fomenting trouble in Balochistan in an attempt to sabotage the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. “India will not derail any process that is for the betterment of Pakistan,” Bambawale said but admitted that his country has objection to the CPEC route.
Pakistan calls Kashmir the main reason of discord with India, Bambawale, however, said the road to normalisation between the two countries lies through greater trade and business. “There is a great potential that needs to be tapped.”
He said in order for trade to improve, Pakistan had to grant India the Most-Favoured Nation status. “There should be more participation in trade fairs and more Pakistani trade delegations should visit India,” he added. “There is no option but to do it step by step.”
The Indian envoy said political issues could take time to resolve, but countries could start by taking up smaller matters. “We have boundary issues with China but we decided on building other relationships to move forward. Today, they are our biggest trade partners,” he said. “We should start by grabbing the low hanging fruit.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2016.