ISLAMABAD: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with the occupied Kashmir leadership was nothing but a “drama” to revive New Delhi’s international image, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Friday.
Modi had met with Kashmir’s leaders for the first time since the region’s semi-autonomy was revoked, as he called for measures to speed up elections for the territory now under direct rule.
Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government moved occupied Kashmir under greater central control in August 2019, splitting it into two territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — and detaining scores of local politicians.
The government also ended Kashmir’s special autonomy status, which it claimed was a necessary step for the region’s development.
The foreign minister, speaking to media in Islamabad, said the meeting was a “facade” and a “failed attempt to resuscitate India’s image in front of the international community.”
“In yesterday’s meeting, 14 Kashmiri leaders were invited […] and the Kashmiri leadership had unanimously demanded India revoke the August 5 decision,” FM Qureshi said.
Slamming the Modi-led regime, the foreign minister said the meeting — which was held for three-and-a-half hours — did not have a preset agenda.
“All Parties Hurriyat Conference was not invited to the meeting […] the Hurriyat leadership has always talked about the right to self-determination,” the foreign minister said.
“In the APC (all parties conference), Modi admitted that there were differences between New Delhi and Occupied Kashmir,” FM Qureshi said.
The foreign minister said it had been nearly two years since India revoked Occupied Kashmir’s special status, adding that the Kashmiris were “in despair and were feeling ridiculed.”
The foreign minister said the Kashmiri leadership had informed the Indian PM that more than 50% of the industries had shut down as a result of the restrictions imposed in the Himalayan region.
Meeting was ‘useless’
“The leadership demanded that the government compensate the losses incurred over the course of two years […] tourism in occupied Kashmir took has been shattered. People did not only suffer monetary losses, but their mental health was also severely affected,” he said.
The foreign minister said despite the two-year ordeal, the Kashmiri leadership did not blame anyone, but they put forward some demands, including the revival of human rights and the release of incarcerated leaders.
“These demands were put forward by those Kashmiri leaders who were a part of previous governments,” he said, adding: “Yesterday’s meeting was useless, pointless, and a failure which will bear no fruit.”
On Afghanistan, US
Speaking on regional issues, the foreign minister said he was unaware of United Nations’ troops being deployed in Afghanistan, and that it was too early to comment on Turkey’s forces being stationed at Kabul Airport.
The foreign minister said if conditions in Afghanistan go back to the way they were in the 1990s, then it will only hurt the Afghans.
Replying to a question on rising violence in Afghanistan, he said Pakistan was concerned about the situation where several elements and “spoilers” could be held responsible who did not want to see peace and stability in Afghanistan.
He said Pakistan had been advocating and facilitating the Afghan peace process with a role of “becoming a part of the solution and not the problem”.
“A negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan is in everybody’s interest and the best way forward,” he said.
Qureshi emphasised that the Afghans, including the government and Taliban, needed to sit together.
“Whatever outcome evolves out of their negotiations, Pakistan will respect that,” he said, adding: “We will remain the partners of peace and not conflict.”
On the blame game against Pakistan ahead of the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, he said: “They [Afghan government representatives] can say whatever they want, but the US knows Pakistan’s role very well.”
The foreign minister said peace and stability in Afghanistan would ensure development and regional connectivity. However, in case of a setback, Afghans would suffer the most, he added.
“No backdoor diplomacy channels are being used to communicate with India, however, intermittent communications are made on intelligence-level to discuss regional issues,” he said.