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Arun Jaitley puts onus of stalling peace talks on Pakistan

LiveMint logoLiveMint 01-06-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: India on Thursday put the onus of stalling peace talks to reduce tensions with Pakistan squarely on Islamabad with defence and finance minister Arun Jaitley saying steps taken by New Delhi to normalise ties with Pakistan had been consistently thwarted.

Addressing a press conference on the completion of three years of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, Jaitley said India has “taken significant steps to ease the situation (with Pakistan)”.

These included Modi inviting the Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi on 26 May 2014 as well as Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore in December 2015, the first visit by an Indian prime minister to Pakistan in a decade.

“But each one of these has been responded with a Pathankot, or a Uri or the mutilation of two of our soldiers,” Jaitley said, in response to a question on the possibility of resumption of dialogue with Pakistan in the last two years of Modi’s term.

The reference to Pathankot and Uri related to terrorist attacks on two Indian military installations—one on 2 January 2016 and the second on 18 September 2016. These two were followed by a third attack on the residential quarters of an Indian army garrison in Nagrota in November 2016.

The Pathankot attack put paid to nascent steps initiated in 2015 to restart peace talks stalled since 2013. Those steps included Modi’s December 2015 Lahore visit as well as his meeting with Sharif in Paris on the sidelines of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in November 2015.

Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had also visited Pakistan for the regional Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan in December 2015, on the sidelines of which the two countries announced the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue to discuss all disputes between the two countries.

Given these and the killing and mutilation of two Indian soldiers on 1 May in Indian Kashmir, “the environment that must exist for talks has been prevented by Pakistan”, Jaitley said.

On infiltration across the Line of Control in Kashmir, Jaitley indicated that the Indian armed forces had been given a free hand to respond to any challenge.

“I don’t want to get into the details of the strategic approach. But I can only tell you that in the past few weeks our armed forces are dominating the Line of Control (de facto border in Kashmir that divides the region into Indian and Pakistan administered zones). But I can only tell you that in the past few weeks our armed forces are dominating the LoC,” he said, adding that the Indian security forces were building up pressure on Pakistan.

India says Pakistan violates a ceasefire along the LoC to help push in terrorists from territories under its control into India to stoke an Islamist militancy in Indian Kashmir—a charge that Pakistan denies.

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