A senior Indian diplomat says the Pakistan-ruled portion of the divided Kashmir region has been under “illegal occupation” of the neighboring country’s army, and New Delhi will raise the issue, as it has always done, when bilateral peace talks are resumed.
India and Pakistan agreed last week to restart their stalled peace dialogue aimed at normalizing relations and seeking solutions to issues dividing them.
The announcement came after an "icebreaking" meeting in Islamabad between foreign ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of a regional ministerial conference. Top foreign ministry officials have been tasked to work out dates for holding the dialogue.
Monday in Islamabad, India’s enovy to Pakistan T.C.A. Raghavan predicted the “landmark development” in bilateral relations will lead to “major improvements” as the so-called Comprehensive Dialogue proceeds.
He said in the absence of “a meaningful” relationship” between India and Pakistan progress on long-running disputes like Kashmir will not be possible.
“Unless there is more trust, unless there is more depth to the relationship real conversations on any divisive issue will not take place. So, whether it is Kashmir or whether any other issue I believe the first step has to be towards constructing a meaningful relationship," said Raghavan.
But the Indian diplomat for the first time explicitly suggested his country has long wanted Pakistan to vacate Kashmir, on the grounds that “it is under illegal occupation of the Pakistan army."
“So, when you say what is it that India is going to discuss or what have we been discussing [with Pakistan], it is really, if you ask most Indians and what is our position, it is the part of that state which is still under the control of Pakistan," he said.
India controls two-thirds of Kashmir while the rest is administered by Pakistan. Both countries claim the Himalayan region in its entirety and it remains a major source of political and border tensions.
Responding to the statement made by the Indian diplomat, senior Pakistani foreign ministry officials dismissed it as "irresponsible“ and said "it does not dilute the legal status of the disputed [Kashmir] territory, which is often called the unfinished U.N. agenda.”