Kashmir stand-off makes India-Pakistan talks a 'farce'
Controversial run-up to India-Pakistan talks threatens cancellation but little was expected anyway

Cross-border bombardments and a diplomatic stand-off over Kashmir have left relations between India and Pakistan tense ahead of highly-anticipated bilateral security talks scheduled for Sunday.

When the talks were announced by the two countries' prime ministers at a meeting in Russia in July, they were hailed as a breakthrough in a famously bitter relationship.

Since then however, there has been increasing tension between two neighbors with civilians and soldiers on both sides killed in several bouts of cross-border shelling.

Pakistan's decision to invite pro-independence leaders from Indian-held Kashmir to consult on the talks has also angered India, bringing the whole meeting to the edge of collapse in recent days after India briefly arrested the Kashmiri leadership to prevent them from attending the meet.

A similar stand-off caused India to cancel foreign secretary-level talks last year and the meeting between Pakistan's National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz and Indian counterpart Ajit Doval had looked likely to suffer the same fate, with both countries hardening their stances.

Indian media reports on Friday even prematurely reported that India had cancelled the meeting and observers on all sides have lost faith in any progress being made.

The daily Indian Express in an editorial on Friday, described the back-and-forth between India and Pakistan as a "low farce" and claimed India was hardening its stance based on pressure from the more rigid allies of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party government and media outrage.

Omar Abdullah, the former chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir state, tweeted that neither country actually wanted to go ahead with the talks.

"I've never seen an Indo-Pak dialogue where both sides are so keen to sabotage it. India & Pak competing to give reasons to call off talks," said Abdullah, after the house arrests of the Kashmiri leaders on Thursday. "Shelling, Infiltration, terror attacks & now Hurriyat arrests, clearly no side wants to talk & yet neither side has the guts to call it off."

"It's so obvious that [the meeting in Russian city] Ufa & now these planned NSA [National Security Adviser] talks are under international pressure with both Ind & Pak hoping the other will pull out," he said.

Indian officials have insisted that among several issues, the talks should focus on a lack of justice for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, as well as ceasefire violations along the border.

In return, Pakistan has been expected to bring up India's alleged interference in its Balochistan province, where there is a strong separatist movement, as well as for the 2007 bombing of a cross-border train that mostly killed Pakistanis.

But while India wanted to focus on purely security-related matters, Pakistan insisted on Friday that all points of contention, including the contentious Kashmir dispute, are discussed.

Both countries hold part of Kashmir while claiming the whole of the Muslim-majority Himalayan region, and have fought two wars over the dispute.

More than what was in the statement made by India and Pakistan's prime ministers in Russia, it was the absence of any mention of Kashmir that resounded most loudly in Pakistan and in the Indian-held Kashmir.

The senior Kashmiri pro-independence leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani told Anadolu Agency the "statement had shown that the present regime in Pakistan was more keen on friendship with the right wing BJP-RSS government in India than with the Kashmiri people."

Pakistan has responded to the pressure by being more insistent on discussing Kashmir, especially given the hostilities along the de-facto borders of the divided region in recent months.

Little faith in end result

The controversies surrounding the talks have left most analysts with little expectation of any productive outcome; even Pakistan's representative Sartaj Aziz said he expects no major breakthrough.

Karachi-based security analyst Ikhram Seghal said it will be a "customary meeting followed by a customary joint statement."

"The two security advisers will sit, exchange their respective lists of allegations, and that’s it," he said.

Jabbar Khan, another Karachi-based political and economic analyst, said the meeting was mainly a product of international pressure, pointing towards a telephone discussion about the talks last week, between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Sharif.

"U.S. pressure has forced the two countries to show to the international community that they are negotiating. Otherwise, it’s just a customary affair,” he said.

Last Modified: 2015-08-22 07:05:40
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