Pakistan and India: reactions and counter-reactions

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The invitation by Foreign Secretary of Pakistan Aizaz Chaudhry to his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar for talks on Kashmir was met by rejection as Jaishankar maintained that only cross border terrorism should be discussed with Pakistan. All of this comes amidst heightened tensions between the two states particularly after Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi in his 15th August address said that the people of Balochistan along with Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan had thanked him for his support. In an obvious departure of past Indian policy of maintaining silence on Balochistan, Modi has fundamentally altered India’s position vis-à-vis Pakistan. In the past, India has always tried to portray Pakistan as a country scheming to destabilise it by using militancy as a weapon. However, this time, openly declaring sympathy for the separatist movement in Balochistan, India has sent a tit-for-tat signal to Pakistan. Needless to say, Modi’s comments on Balochistan were over the line, and showed utter disregard for international conventions. Not only did the comments elicit widespread outrage in Pakistan, but also in India they were pooh-poohed as rhetorical bombast. Congress leader Salman Khurshid is among those who minced no words to say that Balochistan is Pakistan’s internal matter.
However, Pakistan’s handling of the Kashmir crisis has been far from ideal. In a hotchpotch of statements declaring support for the Kashmiri freedom struggle in which diplomatic tact was mostly lost on the state, Pakistan is partly responsible for providing India with the excuse to allege Pakistan’s hand in fomenting the unrest in the valley. To make matters worse even individuals belonging to outfits that India considers to be involved in cross border terrorism, such as Syed Salahhudin and Hafiz Saeed, have openly issued statements on Kashmir, adding fuel to the fire. It is in this context that Modi’s statement must be viewed — an act of belligerence towards a state that India considers to be involved in cross border terrorism. Modi’s statement has opened a new opportunity for Pakistan to fix its image. No longer can India appear to be on the moral high ground and continue to paint Pakistan as the only supposedly conniving country in the region. For once, Pakistan can play the role of a sensible nation that is determined to resolve disputes.