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Recently various voices have emerged from different nooks & crannies to urge India and Pakistan to talk in order to improve the strained relations between them. Cross-border terrorism is the major stumbling block in establishing a cordial relationship between two countries. On 20 Aug 2022, while addressing the students from Harvard University, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that there should be ‘permanent peace talks’ and ‘not war’ with India. On 06 Oct 2022, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that Pakistan seeks an early resolution of the Kashmir issue during his visit to the US. On 7 Oct 2022, in a joint press statement, Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and his German counterpart said that Germany has a role and responsibility regarding the situation of Kashmir. She added that Germany seriously supports the engagement of the UNO to find peaceful solutions in the region and encourages India and Pakistan to follow the tracks of the ceasefire, UNO resolutions and political discourses.
In response to media queries on comments regarding Jammu and Kashmir made during the aforementioned joint press conference the Official Spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs of India said that all serious and conscientious members of the global community have a role and responsibility to call out international terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism.
Jammu and Kashmir have suffered from terrorism abetted and supported by our adversary for the last three decades, and unfortunately, this continues even today. Many foreign nationals have also been victims of terrorism in J&K and other parts of India. The UNSC and FATF are on the job of investigating the involvement of terrorist organisations based in Pakistan in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. When states do not recognise such dangers, either because of self-interest or indifference, they undermine the cause of peace, not promote it. They also do grave injustice to the victims of terrorism. In a recent visit to J&K, Home Minister Amit Shah, while addressing a gathering at Baramulla on 05 Oct 2022, categorically rejected the notion of talks with Pakistan in the present circumstances. He asserted that due to cross-border terrorism, about 42000 innocent lives had been lost in J&K since 1989. He also blamed the political leadership of the State for not carrying out effective development post-1947. He added that instead of wasting time talking to Pakistan, India would concentrate on talking to the people of J&K to carry the growth and development agenda forward.
India extended the ‘hand of friendship’ many times but was repeatedly betrayed by Pakistan. There has been a long history of treachery by the latter since 1947. On 15 Aug 1947, Pakistan agreed to sign a ‘Standstill Agreement’ with the erstwhile princely state of J&K. Under this agreement, Pakistan agreed to extend the Postal and Telegraph system and food supply to J&K but never kept its promises, and instead started attacking and threatening its border localities. Pakistan planned an attack on J&K before Maharaja Hari Singh signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’ with India on 26 Oct 2022. “On 20 Aug 1947, a courier arrived carrying a demi-official letter from Gen Sir Frank Messervy at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. As he was authorised to open the letter, Maj Kalkat opened it, and it stated ‘Operation Gulmarg’- a plan to capture Jammu and Kashmir on 20 Oct 2022.” (Maroof Raza & I C Malhotra, Kashmir’s Untold Story Declassified, Bloomsbury, 2019 p-63). The rest is history. Pakistan still occupies a total area of 13,297 square kilometres.
In 1965 under the codename ‘Operation Gibraltar’, Pakistan tried to annex J&K by supporting subversive elements but failed miserably. Further, after facing a humiliating defeat in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 and losing its Eastern limb (Now Bangladesh), Islamabad decided to bleed India by ‘Thousands of Cuts’. When Pakistan failed in its design to foment terrorism in Punjab in the 1980s then, Pakistan launched ‘Operation Topac’ in 1988 to exploit the political space in J&K by cutting it off from India. Its government used Article 370 to catalyse terrorism in J&K through its sympathisers. The problem is that Pakistan’s political leadership says one thing, and its military does something else. India cannot forget Prime Minister AB Vajpayee’s well-intentioned bus journey to Lahore being reciprocated with the Kargil war as a return gift. After that, dozens of terror attacks have taken place in India. All are backed and supported by our adversary. The same thing happened when PM Narendra Modi paid a surprise visit to Lahore, terrorists supported by our adversary carried out a terror attack on the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot. Pakistan’s deceitfulness does not stop there. There has been no respite in terrorist attacks in J&K and other parts of the country despite the Pakistani State’s pledge to not permit terrorist organisations to use its soil to foment terrorism toward India. The masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Hafiz Sayeed and Zakir Rehman Lakhvi and various known terrorists who were involved in heinous criminal activities in India are roaming scot-free even today in Pakistan. Their detention and trial were a sham to fool the international community. The trial of the 26/11 perpetrators is floundering even after more than a decade.
It is misguided to advocate that the UNO be asked to decide on the status of J&K. India referred the matter of Pakistan’s naked aggression against J&K to the UNO after J&K had become an integral part of India following the terms of the Indian Independence Act. The state’s constitution came into force on 26 Jan 1957, under which elections to the state legislative assembly were held for the first time. This constitution also ratified the state’s accession to the Union of India. Section 3 of the J&K’s constitution said ‘J&K is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India.’ Islamabad’s contention that India must hold a plebiscite first is also wrong. The resolutions of the United Nations Commission on Jammu and Kashmir, which India endorsed, required that, for India to hold a plebiscite, Pakistan must first vacate the territory (POJK) occupied illegally. Pakistan has still not complied with the initial conditions of the resolutions and continues to occupy the territory of J&K till today.
The Simla Agreement signed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan on 2nd July 1972 lays emphasis on resolving issues mutually and respect the Line of Control (LoC). It also says that both the countries would work toward peaceful co-existence, respect each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and not interfere in each other’s internal affairs, based on equality and mutual benefit. yet, contrary to this covenant, Pakistan has been persistently indulging in cross-border terrorism and even tried to breach the LoC in the Kargil Sector in 1999. However, now the era of ‘Kashmir Banega Pakistan’ has gone with the wind as India aims to ‘embrace J&K by embracing its people.’ The present Indian government is working on numerous ways to eradicate terrorism – foiling infiltration plans, identifying and dealing sternly with the sympathisers of terrorists, developing human resources, and countering anti-India propaganda. Government agencies must carry the baton forward and maintain this advantage by make terrorism too costly an endeavour for Pakistan which is already reeling under growing economic and social pressures.
India has firmly stated that it will not tolerate or compromise on issues regarding its national security. Unfortunately, Pakistan has not shown its commitment to put an end to violence and cross-border terrorism remains the biggest concern for India. Speeches made by Pakistani political leaders on the international stage thus feel hollow and insincere as Islamabad continues to support festering terrorism on its soil. However, there can always be room for moving towards peace. Pakistan could indicate its willingness to pursue a reconciliation by bringing to justice the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai massacres and of various other terror attacks against India. This could be the first step in the right direction. India wishes for peaceful, amiable, and cordial relations with its western neighbour but they presuppose an environment free from violence and terror.