Modi's meeting with Kashmiri leaders a 'PR exercise' that achieved nothing: FM Qureshi

Published June 25, 2021
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressing a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressing a press conference in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday said Thursday's meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior politicians from Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) was a "public relations exercise" that had achieved nothing.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the foreign minister said the talks were an effort to restore India and Modi's reputation after the hit it took internationally in the wake of India's repressive measures in IoK on August 5, 2019, when the region's special autonomy was removed.

"In my view it was a drama and why was it a drama? Because at best it could be called a public relations exercise but nothing was achieved [from it]," said the foreign minister. He termed the talks "unsuccessful and pointless", adding that nothing would be gained from them.

"Kashmiris are still in search of their identity. They are demanding their autonomous status and independence. They want security and are not accepting the demographic restructuring [in IoK]."

FM Qureshi said the Kashmiri politicians had unanimously called for a reversal of the steps taken on August 5, 2019, during the meeting. "We can clearly analyse from the discourse which has come out that they wish for full fledged restoration of statehood," he said.

Qureshi said the politicians had gotten no concrete answer on their demands and were instead told that statehood could be restored at an opportune time.

"This is very vague. What is an opportune time? Two years have passed and how many more Kashmiri lives will have to be sacrificed?" questioned the foreign minister. He added the Kashmiris' lack of confidence and trust had also been raised in the talks as well as the anger and pain being felt by them.

FM Qureshi said the discussions had shown present conditions in IoK to be contrary to Indian government's claims of "development and prosperity" since compensation had also been demanded for the financial loss suffered by IoK in two years, with one participant claiming that "more than 50 per cent of industry is closed in IoK".

"So the perception is not that prosperity has arrived or will arrive. Only destruction has arrived," said Qureshi.

It also had clearly come to the fore, said the foreign minister, that a "complete military siege" had continued in the two years with Kashmiri political leadership in custody without charges being framed, extrajudicial killings continuing, fundamental rights being ceased and state tools of oppression on display.

"But, the surprising and encouraging thing is that despite all this, they (Indian government) couldn't break their (Kashmiris') resoluteness and couldn't subjugate them."

Qureshi said the demands of the Kashmiri politicians had included release of political prisoners, restoration of fundamental rights, end to extrajudicial killings and reversal of illegal and unilateral steps.

He said Pakistan wasn't the one making these demands but the "Kashmiris are saying this including the Kashmiri leadership that had been part of past [Indian] governments".

The foreign minister said even voices from within India were criticising and rejecting the measures taken in IoK. He added that Pakistan was also worried about demographic changes in IoK due to their "far-reaching implications" and had raised the issue at multiple forums and would continue to do so.

In a question on backdoor diplomacy with India, the foreign minister said: "We have commented on backdoor diplomacy before as well. There is no backdoor channel [...] there is contact on the regional situation at an intelligence level but there is no backdoor channel."

When pressed on the prime minister's comments on nuclear deterrence and whether that signalled a change in Pakistan's nuclear policy, Qureshi responded with a succinct "no". He said Pakistan had moved towards nuclear capability for its defence.

The foreign minister was also questioned on the increasing violence in Pakistan and territory gains made by the Taliban to which he responded that there were other elements responsible for the violence in Afghanistan as well.

He reiterated that Pakistan advocated a negotiated political settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government and would respect any outcome, playing the role of a "partner in peace".

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