Any hopes of an improvement in Pakistan-India relationship were doused on Friday after New Delhi decided to backtrack on its decision to accept Pakistan's offer of a meeting between the countries' foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Pakistan voiced its "deep disappointment" not only over the reasons cited for the cancellation of the meeting — the alleged killing of India's Border Security Force's soldier and Pakistan's decision to release stamps allegedly "glorifying terrorists" — but also over “reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan”.
While India's decision is said to be influenced by domestic pressure, some segments of the country's media expressed surprise at the sudden change in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government's stance. The Hindu called for an explanation, while First Post called the Indian government's policy a "headless chicken policy".
Following are excerpts from articles in some of India's main publications:
The Hindu in its editorial, Overnight flip-flop: on the cancelled Swaraj-Qureshi meeting, criticised the Indian government's "lack of consistency" in its policy regarding Pakistan.
"While the government is well within its rights to rethink any decision it takes, the reasons that it has furnished for cancelling the meeting are far from convincing.
The government needs to clarify its position on what prompted the cancellation of the meeting, not just for the domestic audience but also for the international community which is watching the India-Pakistan relationship very closely.
There is little doubt that provocations from Pakistan, and the seriousness of the attacks launched by groups based there warrant a firm signal from India. But a credible position also requires consistency, which the government has not brought to bear on its Pakistan policy thus far."
While the First Post, in a piece titled New Delhi takes right step but should get rid of its naivete on Imran Khan, supported the move to cancel the meet, the publication was critical of the Indian government's decision to accept the offer of a meeting "in the first place". The publication advised the government to "rid of its naivete on Imran Khan [and] stop taking his words at face value".
"[...] But ‘headless chicken policy’ has never been effective in managing international affairs, even less so when applied to mitigate a toxic relationship such as the one we share with Pakistan. Little wonder that more than seven decades later, we are still trapped in a time warp, going back and forth over the same failed track.
India shouldn’t have accepted the request for meeting in the first place and let itself be manipulated by Khan who serves as the cat’s paw for Pakistan’s ‘milestablishment’.
India’s policy (if withholding talks qualifies as one) rests on an assumption that it is in Pakistan’s interests to normalise economic relations. Since India is a bigger country and at a more advanced stage of growth, hitching itself to India’s economic engine and accessing its market would be advantageous for Pakistan. Not being allowed to do so may impact its economy. Therefore, it is in India’s interest to suspend the talks and engineer Pakistan’s international isolation."
In a news story carried by India Today on the development, India cancels meet with Pakistan amid bloodshed, the publication pointed out that the reasons cited by the BJP government predated the announcement of the meeting. It acknowledged that pressure from India's 'domestic' constituency played a part in its authorities' backtracking from its announcement.
"The government was weighing its options on whether 'limited exposure' by going for a meeting would end Pakistan's chances of exploiting its constant refrain that India does not have a positive outlook. But, interestingly all the reasons spelt out by the government existed even when the decision to hold the meeting was announced.
Highly placed sources have told India Today TV that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself reviewed the decision on talks."
The Statesman, in its news report about the Indian government's move, said that the decision to cancel the meeting between the two countries' foreign ministers came after "nation-wide outrage" over the alleged killing of Indian soldiers.
"In what reflected inconsistency in India’s policy on Pakistan, New Delhi called off a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in New York next week following the nation-wide outrage over the brutal killings of Indian security personnel by Pakistan-based entities."