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By Prarthana Mitra
Earlier last week, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan proffered an informal discussion with India, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, scheduled for later this week. Although Narendra Modi agreed to a meeting between foreign ministers of both nations at first, he now faces the ire for extinguishing the hope of reviving bilateral talks.
Over the weekend, the Indian Prime Minister surprised the mass and media on both sides of the border when he cancelled the informal meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, citing the alleged killing of India’s Border Security Force’s soldier for this backtracking, along with Pakistan’s decision to issue stamps “glorifying terrorists”, in this case, Burhan Wani, a young Kashmiri rebel commander killed by Indian troops in 2016. Wani’s death was condemned internationally and sparked mass outrage and violent protests in India-administered Kashmir.
However, these reasons fall short while explaining why Modi had agreed to the meeting in the first place, as several critics suspect growing internal pressure from the BJP government, even calling this hostile hesitation and inconsistency a “headless chicken policy”. Manoj Joshi, an analyst at Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, told Al Jazeera, that India should have factored in Pakistan’s frequent “provocations” before it agreed to resume talks.
The Pakistani government has expressed deep disappointment with the move, and over a perceivably derogatory “reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.” “It is obvious that behind Pakistan’s proposal for talks to make a fresh beginning, evil agenda of Pakistan stands exposed and the true face of [the] new Prime Minister of Pakistan has been revealed to [the] world in his first few months in the office,” the statement said. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Qureshi also blamed India’s internal politics for the decision, saying, “Some elements don’t want resumption of talks between India and Pakistan,” especially as elections draw nearer.
India has been accused of choosing arrogance as a diplomatic strategy, especially ahead of the crucial UN summit where the rival South Asians are expected to chalk out comprehensive measures to prevent human rights violations and address cross-border terrorism for stability in the region. Mutual cooperation on the sidelines is equally important, as is furnishing explanations for this cancellation, especially when the international community is following the developments closely. Recently, the new UN Human Rights chief has called for a tightening of the approach towards resolution, while India’s response so far has been to dismiss the “prejudiced” UN report.
The prospect of UNGA talks was greeted with optimism, being the first instance in two years that such high-level talks were in the making after the dialogue fell through following the Pathankot attack in 2015. However, the cancellation may have already set the wrong tone for the UNGA summit before it has even begun.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.