We appear to be moving into increasingly difficult times, as hostilities between New Delhi and Islamabad worsen. India and the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi appear to be playing the key role in this unfortunate turn of events. The growing distance will of course hurt both countries, but for now Mr Modi and his team seem oblivious to this. Just days ago, the Indian PM had accused Pakistan of staging a ‘proxy war’ in Kashmir, a charge firmly denied by the Pakistan Foreign Office. Now, in an angry response to the planned meeting between Pakistani High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit and Hurriyat leaders from Kashmir on August 19, New Delhi has called off foreign secretary level talks between the two countries, scheduled for August 25.
This is obviously a major setback to the effort to re-establish normal ties. A spokesperson for the external affairs ministry announced the talks had been cancelled due to Pakistan’s “unacceptable, interference” in India’s internal affairs. The Indian line being adopted is obviously unwelcome and falls in entirely with the nightmare scenarios that had been painted regarding Narendra Modi’s hard line position on Pakistan. We are now seeing this unfold. It is unfortunate that these developments come at a time when Pakistan’s government is eager to improve relations with India and has made overtures in this direction with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attending the new Indian PM’s oath taking earlier this year. There is obviously nothing wrong with Pakistan talking to Hurriyat leaders. Kashmir after all is a disputed territory with one part of it administered by Pakistan and closely linked to it. It would be absurd to pretend that Pakistan has no interest in the region. There has been much criticism of Mr. Modi’s policies at home. But, of course, the BJP government holds the affairs of India in an iron grip for now following its sweeping election win and the consequences of this for Pakistan are just now beginning to be felt. It is clear they are not very pleasant ones, and things could take a still nastier turn in the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2014.
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