Prime Minister Narendra Modi has earned enormous goodwill in India, among neighbours and from the international community for his creative initiative of inviting the SAARC countries’ heads of government for his swearing-in ceremony. Three of the neighbours, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan, had special concerns because of the statements made by Modi during the election campaign. The first two seemed to go back quite satisfied with the bilateral talks on May 27. As for Pakistan, the reports are not very clear.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared that he had had “useful and constructive” talks with the prime minister. But the fact that he did not mention the “K” word during his brief address to the media seems to have drawn criticism back home in Pakistan. Even Hina Rabbani Khar, former foreign minister, whose party, the PPP, had supported Nawaz’s acceptance of Modi’s invitation, feels that the Pakistan prime minister had erred in not mentioning Kashmir in his public statement in India. This writer has no means to ascertain whether Nawaz raised Kashmir during his one-on-one meeting with Modi, but that is not relevant for the Pakistani media and the anti-India establishment in Pakistan.
Be that as it may, India cannot wish away the Kashmir question by refusing to talk about it with Pakistan. The dispute regarding the state of Jammu and Kashmir exists. We ourselves unwisely took it to the United Nations, where it remains an item on the agenda of the Security Council. The fact that the Council has not discussed it for decades does not mean that it will not be discussed if the situation in J&K deteriorates to the extent of threatening international peace and security. Even the Simla Agreement of July 1972, which we seem to swear by, speaks of a “final settlement” of the Kashmir issue.
For reasons best known to those in government, every time Pakistan mentions the Kashmir issue, we go on the defensive. The very word “Kashmir”, if uttered by Pakistan, signifies hostile intent, and we withdraw into a shell. There is no reason for such a reaction. It is as much in our interest to discuss Kashmir as Pakistan suggests it is in its, perhaps more so. After all, it is Pakistan which sits in illegal occupation of one third of the state. We should be the ones anxious to raise the Kashmir issue. We have deployed a large number of troops along the Line of Control and elsewhere in the state, continued…