Misconceptions about Pakistan-India Secret Talks

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              By Sajjad Shaukat Pak VT

During the visit of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on April 17, this year, some analysts and anchors of Pakistan’s print and electronic media, including those of foreign and Indian media entities said that Qureshi would meet Minister of External Affairs of India Dr. S. Jaishankar who would be in Abu Dhabi (capital of UAE) for a day trip on April 18, setting off speculations that the top diplomats may meet as part of efforts to seek rapprochement.

Particularly, Indian media propagated that foreign ministers of Pakistan and India would hold secret talks to break Kashmir deadlock and UAE is facilitating these dialogue as a third party.

Surprisingly, the UAE Ambassador to Washington also confirmed that his country was facilitating dialogue between the two countries.

Although there was no official confirmation from governments of UAE and Pakistan, yet several reports suggested that the UAE was mediating between the two countries. There were even misconceived reports that senior intelligence officials of Pakistan and India had met in Dubai in January, leading to the ceasefire between the two countries along the Line of Control (LoC), as UAE played a key role.

In the recent past, controversial debate accelerated on country’s electronic and print media when the federal cabinet deferred the proposal of Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) for import of cotton and sugar from India.

Foreign Minister Qureshi had said that a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan decided that the trade with India would remain suspended and normalisation of Pakistan-India ties was impossible unless India reverses its unilateral steps of August 5, 2019 in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), under which Kashmir was stripped of its statehood and special constitutional status.

Qureshi added that the lifting of the ban on trade had given the misguided impression of normalising all ties with India.

Federal Finance Minister Hammad Azhar had announced on March 31, 2021 that the government would allow the import of cotton and sugar from India.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Security Moeed Yousaf stated that the ECC forwards its recommendations to the cabinet for approval, in every decision; the cabinet is the final decision-making forum.

However, without taking cognizance of reality, various leaders of the Pakistan’s opposition parties denounced lifting of ban on the import of cotton and sugar from India, saying that Islamabad has moved to normalise relations with New Delhi without resolving the Kashmir issue. Some of them allegedly stated that the present regime has bargained the Kashmir dispute in exchange of trade with India.

Meanwhile, addressing the two-day conference-Islamabad Security Dialogue, PM Imran Khan stated that good relations with states and regional neighbours were also paramount for national security and called upon India to give the people of occupied Kashmir their right to self-determination in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions. Recounting August 5, 2019 when India revoked the special status of the Indian Occupied Kashmir, he explained that for an enabling environment for meaningful dialogue, “India must take the first step forward.”

In his speech on the occasion, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that it was time for India and Pakistan to “bury the past and move forward…lasting peace in the sub-continent will remain elusive until the resolution of the Kashmir issue.”

In fact, both the statements of PM Khan and army chief Gen. Bajwa were misapprehended by the internal entities, who did not read their statements with reference to the context.

In the recent past, the Director Generals of Military Operations of Pakistan and India had agreed to strictly observe the 2003 ceasefire agreement at the LoC and other sectors, including Working Boundary from the midnight of February 24 and 25, this year.

In this backdrop, leaders of the opposition parties, including media analysts presumed that Islamabad and New Delhi are in contact through backchannel diplomacy to start dialogue, while PTI government has ignored its stance on Kashmir.

In their misconceptions, these entities forgot that present regime has raised the issue of the IIOJK, Indian military lockdown and state terrorism there and abrogation of the special status of the Kashmir on various international forums, including OIC and the UNO, while stressing on the settlement of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UNO-related resolutions.

And on the special instructions of the Premier Khan, 5th of August, 2020 was especially observed as the Black Day by the Kashmiris on both side of LoC and worldwide, as on this very day, Indian Parliament revoked articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution, which gave a special status to the IIOJK. The act split the IIOJK into two territories to be ruled directly by New Delhi. Similarly, the 5th of February, 2020 and 2021 were also commemorated as the black days to pay homage to Kahsmiri martyrs and to show solidarity with the freedom fighters who are demanding their legitimate right of self-determination, as recognized by the UN resolutions.

Nevertheless, putting an end to speculations triggered by India and various media entities, a day after his visit to UAE, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi ruled out backchannel talks between Islamabad and New Delhi, saying that he was not scheduled to meet his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar. He elaborated: “I am here for a bilateral visit…UAE-Pakistan and not an India-specific agenda…We are ready to hold talks with New Delhi if it reverses its illegal steps of August 5, 2019…its decision to revoke the semi-autonomous status of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir…We want peace in the region and cordial ties with all our neighbours including India.”

During a recent trip to Turkey, Foreign Minister Qureshi also attended the Trilateral Meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs of the three countries-Afghanistan and Turkey held in Istanbul regarding peace in Afghanistan.

Talking to a Turkish television network on April 23, 2021, Qureshi categorically rejected the speculations of any secret talks between Pakistan and India through back-door channels or third party involvement-the United Arab Emirates. He repeatedly stated:  “We are not having any talks [with India] at the moment. UAE is not facilitating any talks.”

Nonetheless, misconceptions about Pakistan-India secret talks particularly on Kashmir dispute have been clarified.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Email: [email protected]

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