India on Thursday countered Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s four-point peace initiative with a one-point offer. “We don’t need four points, just one — give up terrorism and let’s sit down and talk,” external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said in an address to the UN general assembly.
In his UN speech on Wednesday, Sharif had proposed a four-point initiative: demilitarization of Kashmir, ceasefire along the Line of Control, affirmation to not use force and withdrawal from Siachen.
Reaction from India was sharp and swift. It rubbished elements of the initiative and attempts by Sharif to portray Pakistan as a victim of terrorism, and blame India for its troubles.
Swaraj rejected his initiative in toto, saying there was just one issue that needed to be taken care of. “Talks and terror cannot go together,” she said, adding that this was what was discussed and decided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sharif in Ufa, Russia, in July.
The national security advisers of the two countries can meet and discuss all issues connected to terrorism and the directors general of military operations can meet to tackle the border situation, she said.
“If the response is serious and credible,” the minister said, “India is prepared to address all outstanding issues (which includes Kashmir in diplomacy-speak) through a bilateral dialogue.”
“None of us can accept that terrorism is a legitimate instrument of statecraft,” she said, drawing attention to India’s frustration with continued cross-border terrorism despite assurances.
The mastermind of the Mumbai 2008 attacks walks free, she said, calling it an “affront to the entire international community”.
In an earlier response to Sharif’s offer, foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted, “To demilitarize Kashmir is not the answer, to de-terrorize Pakistan is.”
On Sharif’s claim that Pakistan was a victim of terrorism, India said in a right-to-reply statement in the UN, “In truth, it is actually a victim of its own policies of breeding and sponsoring terrorists.”
“Pak PM gets foreign occupation right, occupier wrong,” Swarup said about Sharif’s charge of “foreign occupation” in Kashmir. “We urge early vacation of Pak-occupied Kashmir”.
Relations between the neighbours have plummeted in recent days and weeks amid tension and firing along the border and cancellation of high-level talks. Both have withdrawn into their respective corners, saying it’s for the other side to make the next move; a long way from the optimism following talks in Ufa. Also, the August 24 NSA-level talks between Sartaj Aziz and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval were cancelled after Pakistani high commissioner Abdul Basit invited Kashmiri separatists to a tea reception.
In his speech, Sharif had sought to portray Pakistan, and himself, as more keen on peace than India. He had said after taking office in June 2013 that normalization of ties was one of his first priorities.
He had reached out to the Indian leadership, he said, yet “today ceasefire violations along the LoC and working boundary are intensifying, causing civilian deaths”.
“Wisdom dictates our immediate neighbour refrain from fomenting instability in Pakistan,” he said, concluding his attempt to take the moral high ground.
India’s response was sharp and unsparing. “Pakistan’s instability arises from its breeding of terrorists. Blaming neighbours is not a solution,” Swarup said.
Harping on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demand for the expansion of the UN security council, Swaraj said “if security, development and international peace is to be maintained, then security council needs to be reformed”.
“We have to include more developing nations in the decision making structures of the security council,” Swaraj said.