Responding to a question on the suspension of India-Pakistan cricket ties, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Wednesday linked the frayed cricketing relations between the two countries with cross-border terrorism and said it is very difficult in real life to separate the issues. Speaking at a think tank Council event on Foreign Relations in New York, Jaishankar said, “It’s very difficult in real life to separate the issues.”
He highlighted the recent terror attacks like Uri, Pathankot and Pulwama and said, “If the dominant narrative of a relationship is of terrorism, suicide bombings, violence and then you say, ‘okay, guys, now tea break, let’s go and play cricket’. That’s a very hard narrative to sell to people.”
“So this is a democracy, the sentiments of people do matter. And the one message I don’t want to give is, you do terrorism by night and it’s business as usual by day. And, unfortunately, that’s the message I would give if I were to follow this one (allow cricket matches between India and Pakistan,” he added.
India and Pakistan have not played a bilateral series since January 2013. However, both the teams have participated in several multilateral events. They recently played each other at the World Cup in England this year.
The minister also slammed Pakistan for promoting terrorism as a ‘legitimate tool of statecraft’ to get India to the negotiating table and claimed it is difficult to negotiate with a very challenging neighbour.
When asked about Kashmir and how he looks to manage New Delhi’s relationship with Islamabad, Jaishankar replied that Kashmir is one issue while negotiations with Pakistan on a host of other issues.
“Well you used two keywords and I would like to begin by differentiating that. One was Kashmir and other was Pakistan. And I’ll tell you why I do that. I don’t think that the fundamental issue between India and Pakistan is Kashmir. I think it’s part of the issues between us,” he was quoted as saying by PTI.
Reiterating his stand, Jaishankar said the issue for India is how it can talk to a country that is promoting terrorism.
“Of course everyone wants to talk to their neighbour. The issue is, how do I talk to a country that is conducting terrorism and which frankly I would say follows a policy of implausible deniability,” he added.
The minister stressed that the history of India and Pakistan is not ‘normal’. Despite being neighbours, Pakistan does not trade with India, both nations are members of the WTO but will not extend MFN status to each other, even though they are legally obliged to do the same.
“You have a neighbour who would not allow you connectivity. So we have, for example, the potential to use Pakistan to transit on to Afghanistan, Iran but they will not allow you that connectivity,” he said. “So it’s a very challenging neighbour,” he concluded.
Calling it as unacceptable, the minister emphasised that a state should not use terrorism as a tool to pressurise its neighbour to come to the negotiation table.
“Now, all of that you could still handle if they then don’t do the one thing which is actually unacceptable in the world today, which is to conduct terrorism, as in their eyes, a legitimate tool of statecraft as a way of pressurising you to come to the negotiating table,” he said adding, “It’s not acceptable today as a sort of norm of international relations anymore. You have terrorism in different parts of the world, but there’s no part of the world where the country uses it consciously, deliberately as a large scale industry against its neighbour.”
Tensions between the two countries escalated after India ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. The decision to abrogate Article 370 evoked a strong response from Islamabad, which reacted by downgrading ties with India and expelling the Indian ambassador.
Pakistan has been trying to make raise the Kashmir issue at international forums but New Delhi has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 in J&K was an “internal matter”
(With inputs from PTI)