NEW DELHI, June 21: A day after India raised hopes of a thaw over Kashmir, there were signs on Friday of a stiff resistance from Hindu hardliners, who opposed any move to permit leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) to visit Pakistan.
Almost on cue, the Indian foreign ministry slammed Pakistan’s “tired, worn-out rhetoric” on the blood-soaked dispute of Kashmir.
Pakistani officials in New Delhi described the gamut of resistance and negative comments regarding the APHC’s proposed peace visit as an expected response to growing global opinion for resumption of a dialogue between the two countries, including over Kashmir.
“The Hurriyat is welcome to talk to the Indian government within the framework of the Indian Constitution, but going to Pakistan, that would be out of the question,” The Hindu newspaper quoted Sunil Shastri, general secretary of the rightwing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, as saying.
“Pakistan refuses to formulate and articulate a serious vision for peace and reconciliation in our region. What we see is the same tired worn-out rhetoric from various quarters of the Pakistani establishment,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Nirupama Rao told reporters in response to a string of questions on some other related issues.
“There is very little, in fact, absence of genuine desire for dialogue, for reconciliation and for the resolution of outstanding issues through consultations and through interaction from Pakistan,” she said.
Rao was also quoted as saying while “infiltration levels from Pakistan” have gone down, it was still “too early” to decide on military de-escalation.
She added that a “lot more” was expected from Islamabad on its pledge to end infiltration, cross-border terrorism and dismantling of terrorists’ infrastructure.
“Infiltration has gone down. The defence minister clearly referred to that development and also said that steps such as military de-escalation is a long way off,” she said.
“It is still too early” to consider such steps, she said. “There is still a lot of action on the ground which we expect from Pakistan.”
Rao, commenting on India’s move to restore overflight facilities to Pakistani civilian aircraft, said: “We await an official communication from the Pakistan government on the subject.”
On the claim by Pakistan that there was no formal communication from New Delhi to Islamabad, Rao said this was part of disinformation being spread from Pakistan.
She said India’s Civil Aviation Ministry had clarified that no notification was required and none was issued in the first place in January.
Pakistani aircraft wishing to avail of the overflight facilities should file for getting the necessary clearances as and when they decide to resume flights over Indian airspace.
“The offer we have made is a genuine one and we hope that Pakistan will respond to it in an appropriate manner,” she said.
Defence Minister George Fernandes, meanwhile, said on Friday there was no proposal with the government to initiate a dialogue with the Hurriyat Conference.
Commenting on reports about his remarks on the issue on Thursday, Fernandes told reporters that “there is no proposal with the central government to have dialogue with them (Hurriyat Conference).”
“I told mediamen if they (APHC) want a dialogue with the Centre, it can be considered.”
He said New Delhi had taken a strong stand on the APHC as it had not responded to “our earlier invitations for talks”.
Fernandes was quoted by Press Trust of India as saying the borders are still volatile and Indian troops remain in action position. “Borders are still volatile, they have been volatile and they will remain volatile,” he said in reply to a question.
“Our troops are in action position and there has not been any change in that. We are not withdrawing the troops from borders,” Fernandes said.
“Our country has taken positive gestures aimed at ending tension with opening our airspace, withdrawing Navy from the sea to the base position and nominating our new high commissioner to Pakistan,” he said, adding that “India is waiting for Pakistan’s response to our gestures.”
Fernandes said: “There are about 3,000 terrorists active” in Jammu and Kashmir and “our endeavour has been to take on them which the security forces have been doing.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party today rejected outright the Hurriyat Conference proposal that its leaders be allowed to go to Pakistan and Azad Kashmir to broker a ceasefire after talking to the government here.
It was not clear if Fernandes’ comments were modified by the response of the BJP to his remarks. For example, Shastri too ruled out withdrawal of troops from the border till “cross-border terrorism ceased totally”.
The party line seems to be contrary to the view expressed by Fernandes, The Hindu said.
Fernandes had said APHC’s visit offer was a “good proposal” that needed to be “considered”.
The Hindu report said: “Shastri admitted that at one time the government had considered allowing some Hurriyat leaders to travel to Pakistan. That was after the first ceasefire initiative taken by the prime minister but pointed out that some others were not given passports. The Hurriyat was free to participate in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections later this year, but being allowed to talk to Pakistan was not to be considered.’’