“THEY did nothing,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an emotional campaign speech about the carnage that hit India on 26/11. “So many people were slaughtered and the government in Delhi — it did nothing,” he went on.
“Talk to Pakistan in Pakistan’s language,” he said, “because it won’t learn until then”.
Modi’s government has unveiled its diplomatic vocabulary, cancelling the Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan to protest against a meeting between Kashmiri separatist leaders and Islamabad’s envoy to New Delhi — a regular event since the All Parties Hurriyat Conference was formed in March 1993.
In private, senior Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials said the decision was taken because the meeting took place despite protests from New Delhi, which said the meeting would open Modi to criticism from party hardliners.
“Frankly, I can’t see much sense in making a meeting with the Hurriyat a touchstone for India-Pakistan relations,” said analyst Ajai Sahni of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi. “It’s almost as if the government is saying we can live with Pakistan shooting our troops on the Line of Control (LoC), but having tea with secessionists — that’s unforgivable”.
New Delhi’s message, an official spokesperson said on Monday, was simple: “The only path available to Pakistan is to resolve outstanding issues through a peaceful bilateral dialogue within the framework and principles of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration”. Those words — omitting mention of the Composite Dialogue the two countries began in 2004 — suggests New Delhi is shutting off life support for a 10-year-old secret dialogue process that was meant to resolve the Kashmir conflict.
“This will strengthen anti-India hardliners, and won’t deter the Army and its Islamist proxies from pursuing terrorism,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, a prominent Pakistani defence analyst. “I just can’t see what the payoff for India is”.
The secret dialogue
The real significance of the decision is that it brings down the curtain on a secret dialogue on Kashmir dating back 10 years and more. In February 1999, Prime Ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif signed the Lahore Declaration, committing both countries “to implementing the Simla Agreement in letter and spirit”. Even as the Lahore agreement was being drafted, though, Pakistani troops were being trained to push their way across the LoC in Kargil — and the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament broke Vajpayee’s patience.
Though the 2001-2002 crisis fizzled out, with India deterred from going to