EAM Jaishankar counters media obsession with Pakistan at Goa

May 06, 2023 10:03 AM IST

For India, Pakistan is a “tried, tested and failed” relationship with cross border terrorism the only issue on the table.

External affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar's “wake up and smell the coffee” advice to Islamabad on abrogation of article 370 related to Jammu and Kashmir was perhaps equally applicable to Pakistan-obsessed Indian media, which continues to read tea leaves over non-existent bilateral ties between two nations.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar kept Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Zardari at a distance at SCO FM Goa meeting.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar kept Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Zardari at a distance at SCO FM Goa meeting.

While certain sections of Indian Left-Liberal media continue to dream about India-Pak détente and try to push the Narendra Modi government in that direction, Jaishankar’s message was clear: victims of terror (India) and perpetrators of terror (Pakistan) cannot sit together. Even before the SCO FM summit, the EAM had ruled out any bilateral meeting with Pakistan but the India-Pak media was hoping against hope.

Although the Pakistani media has made much song and dance about Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s visit to attend the SCO summit and his desire that India should create a conducive atmosphere for a dialogue with Islamabad, Pakistan is a “tried, tested and failed” account for the Modi government. This was lucidly articulated by EAM Jaishankar when he made it clear that return of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to India was the only issue between the two countries.

EAM Jaishankar was addressing the global media on SCO FM meeting after Indian Army lost four Special Forces personnel and a Rashtriya Rifles trooper in a terror attack by cadres of Pakistan-based proscribed terror group in the Kandi Forest of Rajouri sector close to the Line of Control (LoC) earlier in the day. The thickly forested Rajouri-Poonch sector has become a hotbed of Pakistan terrorism since 2021 and the present attacks are designed by Rawalpindi to derail the G-20 meeting in Srinagar on May 20. The Pakistani intentions were laid bare by their Foreign Minister Bilawal Zardari at Goa who virtually threatened India over the Srinagar G 20 meeting by saying that Pakistan will respond at the right time.

Fact is that the Modi government is not impressed with Zardari’s threat. It has discounted relations with Pakistan as for them the relations exist only in Indian media with an obsessive focus on the atmospherics and body language of the involved interlocutors. Left to the External Affairs Ministry, they have no intentions of even acknowledging Pakistan except in the context of cross-border terrorism. EAM Jaishankar really meant it when he said that Pakistan’s credibility was dipping faster than its foreign exchange reserves.

However, the myth of détente continues to thrive in Indian media with back-channel conspiracies and numerous cartographical solutions to the so-called Kashmir issue, which have never even been considered or acknowledged by the South Block. But the fact is that the Jammu and Kashmir issue was over on August 5, 2019, after the Modi government abrogated article 370 and article 35 A and published a new map showing the full extent of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh Union Territories.

While pre-2019 it was possible that India could offer a so-called “out of the box” solution to engage Pakistan as had happened in the past, but post-abrogation India intends to hold a firm line on Islamabad. This has exasperated Islamabad no end with their political leadership—from Imran Khan Niazi to Shehbaz Sharif to Zardari-- with genetic hatred of India routinely abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP and even the RSS. For India, the game has changed and gone bigger. Pakistan is not even a blip on its diplomatic radar.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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