Talks now only on Azad Kashmir: Rajnath

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Tension between India and Pakistan continues to rise, with Sunday seeing rhetoric being exchanged between Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh who upped the ante by first threatening to revoke the no first nuclear strike policy and now of only holding bilateral talks on the issue of Azad Kashmir and nothing else.

We have seen the comments made by the Indian defence minister today. These are reflective of the predicament that India finds itself in, after its illegal and unilateral actions imperiling peace and security in the region and beyond,”Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a statement.

With the situation inside Indian Held Kashmir reaching a point of no return with one of the most oppressive clampdown in history with thousands of arrests made, Singh has diverted his attention to provoking Pakistan.

“With the removal of Sections 370 and 35A, one of our neighbours has been shocked and knocked at the door of all the countries of the world. Some people believe and say that there should be talk with Pakistan, but until Pakistan stops supporting terrorism, there will be nothing. If there is talk with Pakistan then it will be on Azad Kashmir. Pakistan’s support to terror must stop before a dialogue can be held,” Singh told a public meeting.

Qureshi also in his statement pointed to the situation in IHK, which is an issue of discussion in every major world capital.

”Equally condemnable is the completely indefensible lockdown of the entire population in Held Jammu & Kashmir, that has gone on for two weeks, and continues to deepen the dire humanitarian tragedy as reported by the international human rights organisations and the international media.

The world community, including the United Nations Security Council, have taken cognizance of this utterly untenable situation”, added Qureshi.

Reiterating Pakistan’s principled position, the Foreign Minister said that the Jammu & Kashmir dispute is based on UN Charter principles and international law and remains unchanged.

“The Jammu & Kashmir dispute is to be decided on the basis of the UN Security Council Resolutions and in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people”, he said.

As casualties continue to rise at the Line of Control and various threats continue from New Delhi, the present scenario is sending mixed signals abroad. Sunday saw reports from London saying that there could be change in plans about the visit of British Prince William and Princess Catherine to Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi challenged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold a public referendum in Held Kashmir “if he really wants feedback on the popularity of his decision” to strip it of its autonomous status.

“I challenge Narendra Modi to lift the curfew and call the entire Kashmiri leadership — including those who have been in government with you — such as Mehbooba Mufti, a former chief minister, Omar Abdullah, also a CM, and the Hurriyat leadership, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, Ali Geelani, Yasin Malik — there are numerous individuals,” said Qureshi, during a press conference in Multan.

“In Srinagar, or wherever you see fit, hold a public referendum today,” he said, daring Modi to test which way the public opinion sways.

“You haven’t fulfilled the United Nations promise but today if you wish to check the popularity of your decision, hold the referendum and all will be crystal clear,” said the foreign minister.

Qureshi, in his media briefing, said that the United Nation’s Secretary-General had said they consider the area to be a disputed region and that the solution to the dispute lies in the UN resolutions, UN charter and in accordance with international laws. “This is a major diplomatic success for Pakistan,” said the foreign minister. He, however, questioned the international community’s insistence that talks between India and Pakistan be held.

“They say we should move forward and hold bilateral talks. I say, Pakistan was never opposed to a bilateral dialogue. “There are three parties to the dispute: India, Pakistan, and Kashmiris. Two parties are completely uninvolved in your [United Nations Security Council] decisions, and the third, Kashmiris, are under arrest and a curfew has been imposed on them.

“They can scarcely breathe; we don’t know if they have access to medicines, or food even. In which environment are they asking that we hold talks?” said Qureshi. “The Security Council should consider with whom they are expecting that we hold a dialogue — with such a cruel government?” he asked.

He said the restricting environment had stretched on for 13 days now when even Muharram has 10 days of mourning. “People continue to be subjected to enormous suffering, with unarmed citizens bombarded with cluster bombs. There is constant firing across the LoC (Line of Control) and our soldiers have been martyred. Pakistan has exercised patience. But, Pakistan has also expressed its resolve (to stand with Kashmir) and we will continue to stand with Kashmir,” he vowed.

The foreign minister lauded the international and Pakistan media for highlighting the Kashmir issue. “Today, all the world is saying India is being unjust and is violating human rights and the curfew should be lifted. And India goes there [United Nations] and says they will lift the curfew in phases but we are suspicious of their intent [to deliver on this promise],” he said.