Signalling a qualitative shift in Delhi’s stated position on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, a career diplomat known for his careful choice of words and diplomatic nuance, Tuesday said India expects it will have “physical jurisdiction” over PoK “one day”.
This is the first time in recent years that an External Affairs Minister has spoken of taking physical possession of PoK — and this goes much beyond the 1994 Parliament resolution on Jammu and Kashmir.
At a press conference on the first 100 days of the new government, Jaishankar, responding to a query on statements by Indian leaders that talks with Pakistan will henceforth be only on PoK and not on Kashmir, said: “Our position has, is and will always be very clear on PoK, that it is part of India and we expect one day we will have physical jurisdiction over it.”
His statement follows Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement on August 18 that should bilateral talks happen, it will not be about J&K, but on PoK. At a rally in Haryana, Singh had said: “If talks are held with Pakistan, it will now be on PoK.” He was the first to flag this issue, after the government revoked J&K’s special status.
Upping the ante
Home Minister Amit Shah, speaking in Lok Sabha on August 6 at the end of a debate on the government’s J&K move, had said: “I wish to place on record that whenever I mention the State of Jammu and Kashmir in the House, it means both Pak-occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin are part of it. And the borders of Jammu and Kashmir, as decided by our Constitution and the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, include both Pak-occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin.”
The Parliament resolution of February 22, 1994 had stated: “The state of Jammu & Kashmir has been, is and shall be an integral part of India and any attempts to separate it from the rest of the country will be resisted by all necessary means”, and that “India has the will and capacity to firmly counter all designs against its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity”. Demanding that “Pakistan must vacate the areas of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, which they have occupied through aggression”, it resolved that “all attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of India will be met resolutely”.
Jaishankar’s statement sets the stage for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US where the J&K issue is expected to dominate the discourse. India has now unveiled an offensive diplomatic strategy to counter what is perceived by Delhi as Pakistan’s war-mongering.
On Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement that there is no point talking to India, Jaishankar said part of the problem with Pakistan is that it has only been talking and not doing anything on terrorism. “They think nice words are an answer to the real problem. The real problem is the dismantling of this (terror) industry that they have created… Show me a country in the world which will accept that its neighbour can conduct terrorism and then it will go and talk to that neighbour. Our position is completely normal, rational. They are the people whose behaviour is a set of aberrations. The abnormality is theirs.”
Flanked by Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale and MEA’s official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, the External Affairs Minister said Article 370 is an “internal issue”, while the real issue on hand is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. “Show me anywhere in the world where a country openly uses terrorism as part of their foreign policy.”
Defending the J&K move, Jaishankar said: “It (Article 370) was a temporary provision which is not often used in the analysis of events… The provision had actually become dysfunctional. It was being arbitraged by some narrow set of people for their own gains. By doing so, they were impeding development and feeding a sense of separatism. The separatism was being utilised by Pakistan to carry out cross-border terrorism.”
“So, here was an incoming government which could either do something that was done for the last several decades but was unsuccessful, or do something differently. We tried to do something differently,” he said.
Stressing that the international community understands India’s reasons for abrogating Article 370, he said the country’s position on Kashmir has been clear since 1972 and it is not going to change.
“Beyond a point, don’t worry too much about what people will say on Kashmir. There is complete predictability about my position… At the end of the day, it is my issue. On my issue, my position has prevailed and will prevail.”
Responding to statements of US Congress members on Kashmir, he said: “I would ask them: you have confronted terrorism, what was your response? You have confronted separatism, what was your response? Would you be impassive if affirmative action was not implemented?… What would you do if the laws of your country don’t apply to all parts of the country? Ask yourself the same questions and if after all that you have a point of view, I will be happy to talk to you.”
Quoting Prime Minister Modi, Jaishankar said that Pakistan has developed a reputation for “international terrorism” and India has a reputation for information technology — both acronymed IT.
He said “not just Pakistan” but “the whole world” will be watching US President Donald Trump share the stage with the Prime Minister at an Indian diaspora event in Houston, which reflects the state of India-US relationship.
Asked about the significance of Trump at the Houston event and the message to Pakistan, Jaishankar said “it is not just Pakistan, the whole world will be watching the Houston event and take lessons about what Indian-Americans have achieved… I think there are multiple messages there. Obviously, it is for Pakistanis to read what they read into it, and I would say the same applies to other people in the world as well.”
On a possible meeting between Modi and Khan on the sidelines of the UNGA, he said, “just look at the climate” and pointed to the constraints of having a dialogue. There was, however, no categorical no to the question.
On a likely meeting with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the SAARC Foreign Ministers meeting in New York, Jaishankar said they were together at the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers meeting at the same place in the past. SAARC, he said, is about regional cooperation. “SAARC needs trade, needs connectivity, and doesn’t need terrorism. Which country is promoting SAARC, and which is country is impeding SAARC is known,” he said.
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