Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday described Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with top political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir as a “drama” and a “PR exercise”.
Modi held talks with top political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday and told them that the Centre’s priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy there for which delimitation has to happen quickly for polls to be held.
This was the first interaction between the top leadership of the Union government and mainstream parties in J&K since August 5, 2019, when the Centre revoked its special status provided under Article 370 and bifurcated the border state into Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
“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,” Qureshi said a day after the high-level meeting on Jammu and Kashmir in New Delhi.
Qureshi said the Kashmiri leaders at the meeting “unanimously demanded full-fledged restoration of statehood”.
“The leaders were not given any solid reply to their demand and instead told that a decision about restoration of the special status of Kashmir will be taken at an appropriate time, which is an ambiguous statement,” he said.
He pointed out that the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leadership was not invited to the meeting.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have spiked since New Delhi abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019.
India’s decision evoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian envoy.
Qureshi claimed that India was trying to bring demographic changes in Kashmir which was worrying for Pakistan as it would have long term implications.
To a question about back-door diplomacy with India, he said no such communication was going on with India but confirmed intelligence-level contact.
“There is no back-door channel but there is contact on the regional situation at an intelligence level but there is no back-door channel,” he said.
India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of the Article 370 was its internal matter.
India has repeatedly said Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and the country is capable of solving its own problems.
India has told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence.
Talking about the Afghan peace process, Qureshi said he was not aware of the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in Afghanistan but Turkey was expected “to maintain security responsibilities at Kabul airport”.
“Pakistan wants a stable and peaceful Afghanistan whereas the United States appreciates Pakistan’s positive role in the peace process,” he said.
The foreign minister also said that there was no change in Pakistan’s policy on nuclear assets.
“Our nuclear assets are for our own defence. We have no aggressive intentions,” he said.