Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday continued his tough talk vis a vis Pakistan stating that should bilateral talks happen, it would not be about Jammu and Kashmir, but on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the territory under Pakistan’s control since it invaded the region in 1947.
Speaking at a rally in Haryana, where assembly elections are due soon, Singh said: “If talks are held with Pakistan, it will now be on PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir),” according to news reports. India and Pakistan both claim Jammu and Kashmir in its entirety but administer it in parts.
The defence minister’s comment came two days after he said India reserves the right to revoke its ‘no first use’ policy, the cornerstone of India’s nuclear weapons policy for decades. In response to Singh’s comment on a rethink of its nuclear no first use policy, Pakistan on Saturday said it stood ready to repulse any attack from India and also described Kashmir as a “nuclear flash point”.
Ties between India and Pakistan have been tense since India amended its constitution and integrated Jammu and Kashmir more closely with the rest of the country. Pakistan condemned the move and called on the UN Security Council for an open consultation on Kashmir. While Pakistan’s request was rejected, the UN Security Council agreed to China’s demand for a closed door consultation on the matter. A closed door meeting was held but a majority of the members of the Security Council were of the view that India and Pakistan should sort out the Kashmir issue bilaterally. The members also said no statement or outcome would be issued after the consultations, leaving China and Pakistan to make their own statements.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s last ditch attempt to draw the US onto its side ahead of the UNSC meet failed on Friday when after speaking to him, US President Donald Trump said India and Pakistan should sort out this matter bilaterally.
Singh on Sunday underscored the point. “Our neighbour is knocking on the doors of the international community, saying India made a mistake,” he said. “If at all there has to be any talks with Pakistan they will only happen when it stops aiding and abetting terrorism,” he said, while noting that people in Pakistan want a dialogue between India and Pakistan.
“Now it (Pakistan) is knocking on every door and approaching various countries seeking help,” Singh said according to news reports. “However, the world’s most powerful country, America, has snubbed Pakistan and asked it to go back and initiate a dialogue with India,” he said.
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his response to defence minister Rajnath Singh said rejected bilateral talks with India to sort out the Kashmir dispute.
In a statement forwarded by Pakistan’s high commission in New Delhi, Qureshi said “Pakistan’s position is based on UN Charter principles and international law and remains unchanged.The Jammu & Kashmir dispute is to be decided on the basis of the UN Security Council Resolutions and in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people.”
Singh’s comments were “ reflective of the predicament that India finds itself in, after its illegal and unilateral actions imperiling peace and security in the region and beyond,” Qureshi said.
“Equally condemnable is the completely indefensible lock-down of the entire population in Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, that has gone on for two weeks, and continues to deepen the dire humanitarian tragedy as reported by the international human rights organizations and the international media. The world community, including the United Nations Security Council, have taken cognizance of this utterly untenable situation,” he added.