A day after India accepted Pakistan’s proposal for a meeting between their Foreign Ministers in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly gathering next week, the government Friday cancelled the meeting and said “the evil agenda of Pakistan stands exposed” and the “true face” of Imran Khan, the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, has been “revealed to the world”.
Responding to the Indian announcement, Pakistan Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhary Fawad Hussain claimed that “internal politics” and “BJP ke andar jo tagda group hai (the dominant group within the BJP)” were behind the cancellation of the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in New York.
Announcing New Delhi’s decision, Raveesh Kumar, official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, cited “two deeply disturbing developments” — the “brutal killings” of security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the release of postage stamps glorifying Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani who was killed by Indian securitymen in July 2016.
“Any conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless. In view of the changed situation, there will be no meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New York,” Kumar said.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, Chaudhary Fawad said: “What stamps, are we still using stamps? Those stamps were issued in July. It’s absurd that this is being cited as a reason for calling off talks… Look, these are not reasons why India has cancelled (on BSF head constable’s mutilated body)… Asli issue pata kya hai (Do you know what the real issue is)? It is internal politics. BJP is going into an election year, and they cannot do this. BJP ke andar jo tagda group hai, unhon ney isey rok diya (the dominant group within the BJP stopped this)… The Indian cabinet is divided.”
Asked what Pakistan would do to rein in terror groups such Laskhar-e-Toiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and others including Hafiz Saeed, he said: “In Pakistan and in India, there are groups that are not in favour of talks. The leadership in the two countries has to decide kisko tagda karna hai (who to make strong). Do you want to make the groups against talks stronger, or do you want to make those in favour of peace stronger? That is what leadership is all about.” He said Pakistan “cannot guarantee that terrorists will not strike within our own country, so how can we guarantee anything in India?”
“Our government and Army are so close that if the Army did not want us to talk, our Prime Minister would not have taken the initiative to write to your Prime Minister saying let’s talk… Pakistan has been serious and open-hearted about holding talks with India from the day Imran Khan came to power, our seriousness is now before the whole world, what India has done is also before the world,” Chaudhary Fawad said.
In New Delhi, sources said that the decision to call off the meeting was taken by the government after consultations with all stakeholders, including the ministries of External Affairs, Home and Defence, the armed forces and intelligence agencies.
“Since yesterday’s announcement of a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New York later this month, two deeply disturbing developments have taken place. The latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of a series of twenty postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism confirm that Pakistan will not mend its ways,” Kumar said.
The MEA spokesperson said: “Now, it is obvious that behind Pakistan’s proposal for talks to make a fresh beginning, the evil agenda of Pakistan stands exposed and the true face of the new Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has been revealed to the world in his first few months in office.”
He said the decision to agree to Pakistan’s proposal for a meeting between the Foreign Ministers was in response to the spirit reflected in the letters from Pakistan’s new Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. The letter from Khan had spoken of bringing a positive change and mutual desire for peace and also readiness to discuss terrorism.
Chaudhary Fawad, on his part, said: “The advantage now is that the Pakistan civilian government — usually it is said that the civilian government and military are not on the same page — at this time, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiatives have the full backing of the military. We and the military are together, we are very close to each other — hum bahut qareeb hain eik doosrey key, the institutions are close. So whatever the government says has the endorsement of the Army of Pakistan and vice versa. So I think this is a good chance for India and Pakistan to explore normalisation,” he said.
He said they were hoping that when the Foreign Ministers meet in New York, they would be able to finalise the visa-free corridor for devotees from Punjab to visit Kartarpur Sahib, 4.5 km inside Pakistan from the border at Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district.
He said Imran Khan, during his visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this week, had said that Pakistan will have to normalise relations with India.
“He said if we normalise, Pakistan’s geographic positions is such that it will place us right in between the world’s two biggest markers, that is China and India. And we have to normalise relations with India to make use of the full economic potential of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor in which, by the way, we have also invited Saudi Arabia to participate,” Chaudhary Fawad said.
Saying that only an “economic revolution” could lift the poor in both India and Pakistan out of their condition, he said this would be possible only through normalisation of ties. “So we are trying our best, Pakistan is making the best effort… India-Pakistan relations are frosty at the moment for various reasons. What is necessary now is for the leaderships of Pakistan and India to decide how to move forward from here,” he said.
He said Kashmir is the “nucleus” of all problems between the two countries, and will not go away just because India insists that it is not a problem.
“The biggest issue is that India says don’t consider Kashmir an issue at all… All these issues between India and Pakistan, the nucleus of all these issues is Kashmir. If we move ahead on Kashmir, other issues will also get resolved. There will be an impact on Afghanistan also. The other issues between us are not so great, such as Siachen and Sir Creek, on which we had neared resolution,” Chaudhary Fawad said.