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August 07, 2013

New Delhi Pressured to Cancel Proposed Pakistan Talks

by Anjana Pasricha

Indian government officials are being pressured to take a tough stand with Pakistan after the killing of five soldiers in a cross-border clash in Kashmir, which Defense Minister A.K. Antony has attributed to men dressed in Pakistani army uniforms.
 
Pointing out that the Indian army officials have also put responsibility for Monday's ambush on Pakistani forces, Sushma Swaraj, leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), slammed Antony for taking a soft line with Islamabad, accusing the minister of giving its neighbor "clean chit" and insisting that Indian authorities should officially state that Pakistan's army is responsible for the attack.
 
The issue rocked parliament for a second day as tensions were exacerbated by Tuesday reports of two Pakistani soldiers being wounded in a firefight with Indian troops along the disputed border. BJP legislator Arun Jaitley is now leading calls to abandon proposed peace talks with its neighbor.
 
"For those who say that the dialogue with Pakistan must be uninterrupted and uninterruptible, I just want to suggest to them [that in] the interest of India’s sovereignty, it is our interest against terrorism which must be uninterruptible," he said. "The dialogue process must depend on what Pakistan’s attitude is."
 
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid told a local television channel an appropriate decision will be taken, but said talks are a continuous process.
 
In recent days both Indian and Pakistani officials were firming up dates for two rounds of talks to be held in the coming weeks. Islamabad’s new government had taken the initiative in proposing that the two countries restart a dialogue which was stalled in January.
 
Pakistan’s foreign ministry denies a cross-border clash took place and says it looks forward to an early resumption of the dialogue process.
 
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said he wants to work with India to improve ties.
 
Security analyst for New Delhi's Centre for Policy Research, Bharat Karnad, said the government, which faces elections next year, may have to postpone talks indefinitely due to pressure from both public and political opposition.
 
“[The government's] hand may be forced by the opposition in parliament and everybody making the noises," he said. "The election year is coming and the Manmohan Singh government is particularly vulnerable to the charge of being weak on national security ... the stance New Delhi has taken has not really succeeded in stopping the terrorist violence."
 
The flare up in tensions along the Kashmir border comes days after three suicide bombers targeted India’s consulate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.