India on Tuesday rubbed more salt into Pakistan’s wounds, declaring that it hopes one day to have physical control over that part of J&K currently held by Pakistan.
“Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) is a part of India and we expect that one day we will have physical jurisdiction over it,” said External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar at a media briefing to share the ministry’s achievements during the first 100 days of the Modi government’s second term.
Jaishankar’s remarks about “physical jurisdiction” over PoK signals a shift in New Delhi’s approach. His statement comes close on the heels of Home Minister Amit Shah declaring that this region as well as Aksai Chin are an integral part of Jammu and Kashmir. Shah’s remarks were followed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh saying that any dialogue with Pakistan will only be on PoK.
Calling Jaishankar’s remarks about AJK (Pakistan calls PoK Azad Jammu and Kashmir) “inflammatory” and “irresponsible”, Pakistan called upon the international community to “take serious cognizance of India’s aggressive posturing about taking ‘physical jurisdiction’ of AJK.”
Jaishankar also took on Pakistan over terrorism. “Part of the problem with Pakistan they are only talking, not doing anything or dismantling the (terror) industry they have created. Our position is normal, it’s they who are the aberration, they’re the abnormality,” he noted. India is faced with a “unique” challenge from one neighbour and unless the neighbour becomes a normal neighbour, it will continue to remain a challenge,” he warned adding: “Show me anywhere else in the world where a country conducts terrorism openly against its neighbour as part of what it considers its foreign policy”.
He ruled out talks as long as Pakistan continued to foment cross-border terrorism, underscoring that “Article 370 is our internal issue. With Pakistan the issue is not Article 370 but terrorism. It’s part of what it considers its foreign policy.”
This suggests there is unlikely to be a meeting between Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the margins of the UN General Assembly next week. Jaishankar appeared less categorical about that when asked: “When I meet the Pakistan foreign minister, let’s see”. But it was later clarified that he was referring to their presence at the UN for SAARC confabulations. There is no bilateral meeting scheduled.
Earlier, in his initial remarks during the press conference, Jaishankar had made it clear that Modi government’s approach towards foreign policy has meant that it has a “much stronger connection to our national security interests”.
The minister also took a swipe at Pakistan’s treatment of its minorities. “Here’s a country that is waxing eloquent about other nations. Look at their treatment of minorities. I think the minorities’ numbers have come down dramatically in the past 70 years to a point where they don’t even put it out publicly any more,” said Jaishankar.
With regard to reports coming from the Sindh province of Pakistan about two Hindu girls being forcibly converted to Islam and married off, the minister maintained that the number of minorities in this province had decreased. He also drew attention to recent reports of abduction and forcible conversion of Sikh girls.