Govt sends mixed signals on dialogue with islamabad
Statements by 3 ministers muddle govt’s position on whether or not it wants resumption of peace talks

The Modi government seems to be unsure about how to deal with Pakistan. Three top ministers have spoken about resumption of talks with Pakistan with different tone and tenor.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently said that any call for peace by Pakistan will be taken seriously by India. Union home minister Rajnath Singh followed up by saying that India was not averse to talks but Pakistan should take some initiative to curb infiltration and come forward to jointly take action against terrorists.

On Monday, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said India is always ready for talks but with a caveat that terror and talks cannot go together. “There cannot be a comprehensive dialogue till Pakistan shuns terror,” she said while addressing a press conference at the completion of four years in power of the Narendra Modi-led government. “Jab seema par janaze uth rahe him, to baatcheet ki awaaz acchhi nahi lagti (when funerals are being held on the border, talks of dialogue does not sound good),” said Swaraj. The minister also hit out at Pakistan over its Gilgit Baltistan Order 2018 relating to administrative control over Gilgit-Baltistan, saying Pakistan always “distorts history”. “Pakistan tries to teach us history and geography. It is one country which does not believe in rule of law and I would just say one thing to their answer ‘look who’s talking’,”  Swaraj asserted.

Pakistan’s Cabinet on May 21 approved Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 which was also endorsed by the assembly of the region. The order is being seen as Islamabad’s efforts towards incorporating the disputed region as its fifth province.

India on Sunday summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah in New Delhi to protest Islamabad’s move, saying any action to alter the status of any part of the territory under its “forcible and illegal occupation” has no legal basis.

On Monday, Pakistan summoned India’s Deputy High Commissioner JP Singh and issued a demarche over the statement. Pakistan termed India’s  claim over J&K as “spurious” and said it contradicts everything from history to the situation on the ground.

Gautam Datt