With separatists squarely blaming the Congress for the Modi government’s move to call off foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan, the BJP appears to have wrested the initial advantage in poll-bound Jammu and Kashmir.
The BJP hopes its stand against the Hurriyat leaders’ meeting with Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit before the talks will appeal to its core constituency and translate into electoral gains in Jammu.
This is the first time that the government has taken such a tough stance. In the past it was a routine exercise by Pakistan to hold deliberations with the separatist leadership before any bilateral meeting. The move further reinforced the Modi government’s resolve to break away from the tone set by the Vajpayee regime.
At the same time, the Congress’ hard posturing on the issue has put its state leadership in an awkward position. Congress leaders from Kashmir realise that this “change in stand” could dent their poll prospects in the valley.
This could perhaps be the reason J-K Congress chief Saifuddin Soz had to take a divergent stance from his central leaders on the issue. He said the Centre “should not make pretexts” for calling off such important meetings. “India could have taken up this issue on the margins of bilateral talks.”
Soz was at pains to explain his party colleague Manish Tewari’s statement in which he had questioned the NDA’s silence over the Pakistani envoy’s invitation to separatist leaders for talks before the foreign secretary level meeting in Islamabad on August 25. “What Tewari said was a reminder to Centre that BJP was criticising the Congress unnecessarily. He never demanded that talks must be called off,” Soz added. On Tuesday, the Congress demanded the Pakistani envoy be sent back.
The Hurriyat Conference, led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, attacked the Congress for its stand. “The Congress has once again proved that it was never serious in resolving the Kashmir Issue,” it said in a statement. “Congress folks have chosen to score points by resorting to petty politicking against their contender who made them suffer a humiliating defeat in recent parliamentary elections.”