When U.S. state department’s pointsperson for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G Wells lands in New Delhi on Monday, Jammu and Kashmir’s bifurcation and abrogation of Article 370 will undoubtedly top the agenda during her discussions with her counterpart in New Delhi.
Wells has just been to Pakistan as part of her subcontinent swing that will also be taking her to Sri Lanka. However, it’s learnt that she’s not headed for New Delhi directly from Islamabad. The senior state department official had tweeted on Wednesday saying “contrary to press reporting, the Indian government did not consult or inform the US government before moving to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status.”
Also on the agenda will be the peace deal the U.S. is currently negotiating with the Taliban in the hope of bringing the curtains down on the war in Afghanistan.
On Thursday, the turbulence in India-Pak ties continued as both sides engaged in war of words. While Pakistan continued to bristle over India’s moves on J&K, India firmly said the matter was its “internal affair”. Stating that the Indian Constitution “was, is and will always be a sovereign matter”, India told Pakistan: “Seeking to interfere in that jurisdiction by invoking an alarmist vision of the region will never succeed.”
Regretting the measures announced by Pakistan to downgrade ties, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) urged Islamabad to review them “so that normal channels of diplomatic communications are preserved”.
However, even as the Indian statement came out, the Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria, was already heading back home, having been expelled by Islamabad. New Delhi, however, finds itself unable to retaliate in equal measure as Islamabad announced it won’t be sending High Commissioner-designate to India Moin-ul-Haque.
While Pakistan had described India’s announcement on Kashmir as “unilateral”, the MEA struck back saying it was the decision to downgrade ties that was a unilateral one. “The intention behind these measures is obviously to present an alarming picture to the world of our bilateral ties. The reasons cited by Pakistan are not supported by facts on the ground.”
In what appeared to be an attempt to address any concerns that the international community may have with regard to its Kashmir policy, MEA said these announcements were “driven by a commitment to extend to Jammu and Kashmir opportunities for development that were earlier denied by a temporary provision in the Constitution.”
The statement further said that its “impact would also result in the removal of gender and socio-economic discrimination” as well as “an upswing of economic activity and improvement in the livelihood prospects of all people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
India also hit back saying that “it is not surprising that such developmental initiatives that could address any disaffection in Jammu and Kashmir should be negatively perceived in Pakistan which has utilised such sentiments to justify its cross-border terrorism.”
Later in the day, Pakistan PM Imran Khan tweeted saying, “What should be obvious is the int(ernational) community will be witnessing the genocide of the Kashmiris in IOK.” He also tweeted: “Does the BJP government think by using greater military force against Kashmiris in IOK it will stop the freedom movement? Chances are it will gain momentum.”