The sudden shift from what was perceived as a friendly secretary level talks has brought Indo-Pak relation back to square one. dna learns from sources that the government wants to take the issue of Kashmir out of bilateral talks. Pakistan's stand on the other hand is that other issues can be sorted out once Kashmir is sorted out.the two prime ministers may meet twice this year in other venues..
What does the calling off of secretary-level talks mean in realpolitik terms?
Prime minister Narendra Modi has assumed a strident position by telling Pakistan to desist meeting Kashmiri separatist leaders ahead of any bilateral engagement with India. Modi may have done so with his eye on votes in the Jammu region in the forthcoming assembly elections. But a view that is gaining ground very fast is that it may be the first step towards removing Kashmir as a subject for discussion from bilateral engagements.
What are murmurs over Modi's decision?
Officials in the security establishment as well as in the MEA are divided on Modi's new line. Such moderates would have favoured issuing a demarche or protesting publicly at Pakistan's behaviour. They feel the cancellation of talks on this pretext would take the situation to depths from, which it cannot be retrieved. Questions are also being raised as to why in the first place the separatist leaders were allowed to arrive in Delhi and meet the Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit, who on Thursday again defended his meetings, and called Kashmir a trilateral issue, promptly rejected by India by reminding him 'read the print of Shimla Agreement'.
What is likely to be Pakistan's response?
"This new line of engagement sets the bar higher by telling Pakistan to agree to Indian terms and contitions if it wants any progress on dialogue," a senior official told dna. Further, it was Pakistan's prerogative so far to determine whether it wants to talk to either Hurriyat or India. Now that may change. Knowing internal dynamics of Pakistan, this means there will be no further bilateral engagement, as it will be impossible for Islamabad to reverse its position to 180 degrees and talk to India only on the issue of trade, commerce and cultural exchanges.
What does the term bilateral mean?
Late prime minister Indira Gandhi had succeeded in coverting Kashmir from an international issue to a bilateral one, during 1973 Shimla Agreement, which now forms the basis of any India-Pakistan meetings.
Will now Modi set a new precedent by erasing Kashmir issue from the bilateral agenda? Has the recent turn of events anything to do with the impending assembly elections?
Jammu and Kashmir goes to the polls later this year. The BJP has already launched an operation code named "Mission 44+" to emerge as a stakeholder in the state assembly which has 86 seats. The BJP hopes to ride on the success of recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, where it romped home with three seats in the Hindu and Buddhist majority regions of Jammu and Ladakh respectively, leading in some 28 assembly segments. It plans to achieve the party's long-cherished dream of abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution, through legal means.
Where do India-Pakistan relations go from here?
Even those who were preparing for the now cancelled secretary level talks in Islamabad, say deeper differences were already eating away much of their work. These talks were primarily focused on preparing a calendar and agenda for the meeting of Modi with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York in September and then in Kathmandu in November. India had sent a wish list that included grant of non-discriminatory market access, reminding that it had granted an MFN status to Pakistan way back in 1996. Pakistan had also sent its list of demands, which included easing visa regime for pilgrims and families visiting India. There was no agreement, however, on any other issue; be it the judicial closure of the trial of Mumbai attacks or putting a stop on ceasefire violations.