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Domestic political, electoral compulsions behind India’s reluctance to talk, says Pakistan

Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is in New York for a SAARC meeting of foreign ministers.

india Updated: Sep 29, 2018 23:40 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
India Pakistan ties,India,Pakistan
Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi (Reuters)

Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said the Indian government is not engaging in talks with Pakistan because of domestic political compulsions.

“Why are they reluctant? Simply, sir, politics, elections...they are scared of their electorate. They have swung the pendulum to such an extreme, now they’re finding it difficult to bring it back. And elections are round the corner, they felt that it could boomerang,” he said.

Qureshi made the remarks at an event organised by the think tank Asia Society on Friday, a day after external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj left an informal meeting of Saarc ministers after delivering her speech, as had her counterparts from Bangladesh and Afghanistan before her. Qureshi took as a snub and a sign that India did not want to engage with Pakistan.

Responding to a question on why India wouldn’t engage with Pakistan, he said he had been “concerned” when he saw Swaraj at the Saarc meet, and added laughing: “She looked pale to me. She looked very worried…and I wish we could have smiled at each other.

“I could see the immense strain. And when she left, she wasn’t even willing to engage with the media…I could see the political pressure on her — it’s politics, nothing else, it’s politics, domestic politics.”

Qureshi had targeted India after the Saarc meeting, accusing it of standing in the way of regional cooperation. Swaraj and Qureshi were to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly but India called off the meeting, citing the killing of three policemen in Kashmir and stamps glorifying militant commander Burhan Wani issued by Pakistan.

Pakistan reacted to the cancellation with anger and this has continued, as reflected in Qureshi’s remarks. However, he has adopted an attack line with little or no basis in facts. Indian officials said Swaraj didn’t walk out of the Saarc meeting but left after her remarks. They have said this is a routine practice at meetings on the sidelines of the General Assembly, when every principal has multiple bilateral and multilateral meetings every day and they tend to hop from one to another.

Qureshi, who is scheduled to meet the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Tuesday, said, “Today, India is a strategic partner of the US. We have no qualms about it. But we feel that Pakistan is an ally who has always stood with the US.” He said whenever Pakistan stood with the US—the Cold War, the Soviet invasion or the 9/11 terror attack—it benefited America.

First Published: Sep 29, 2018 15:13 IST