India says no ‘conducive atmosphere’ for talks with Pakistan

Earlier this week, Pakistan’s PM called for talks with India to discuss ‘burning issues such as Kashmir’.

Indian army soldiers
The ties between India and Pakistan have remained cold since 2019 when the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution in August 2019 [File: Rakesh Bakshi/AFP]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Days after Pakistan offered to hold talks with archrival India, New Delhi says the atmosphere for dialogue is not conducive yet.

“India’s position has remained clear and consistent. We desire normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in a conducive atmosphere that is free of terror, hostility, and violence,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said during a news briefing on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called for talks with India to discuss “burning issues such as Kashmir”, the Himalayan territory claimed in full by the two nuclear powers, who have ruled over parts of it since 1947.

The South Asian rivals have fought two of their three full-scale wars over the disputed territory.

“I will give my word that we will talk to India with sincerity, but it takes two to tango,” Sharif said during an interview with Al Arabiya news channel aired on Tuesday.

“My message to the Indian leadership and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is that let us sit down on the table and have serious and sincere talks to resolve our burning issues like Kashmir,” he added.

The Pakistani leader made the remarks during a visit to the United Arab Emirates, which he said could play a role in resolving the differences between the two neighbours.

Relations between India and Pakistan worsened in 2019 when Modi’s Hindu nationalist government revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which granted Indian-administered Kashmir partial autonomy.

New Delhi accuses Islamabad of providing logistical and financial support to the armed rebels fighting either for independence or for the merger of Indian-administered Kashmir with Pakistan.

Islamabad denies the allegations, saying it only provides diplomatic support to the region’s struggle for the right to self-determination.

Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan’s former foreign secretary, told Al Jazeera that Sharif’s statements on the resumption of ties with India appeared to be “genuine” and that Pakistan would like to have peace and stability in the region.

“Pakistan wants to resolve all disputes peacefully. The tension that exists between the two nations is not in either’s interests,” he said.

Jilani said “terrorism” is a matter of concern for both countries equally and “only once the two sit together, they can amicably resolve the matter”.

However, the former high commissioner of Pakistan to India, Abdul Basit, believes any headway in the relations between the two nations looks unlikely.

“Pakistan-India relations are in a cul-de-sac. Breaking deadlock and talks for the sake of talks will be more of the same,” he told Al Jazeera.

In February 2021, the two countries renewed a two-decade-old ceasefire pact along the 725km (450 miles) Line of Control, the de facto border that divides Kashmir between the two nations. But bilateral talks have stalled since India’s Kashmir move.

Vivek Katju, a former Indian ambassador, said Sharif’s interview made it appear as if Pakistan was ready to engage with India without caveats before a change in sentiment as shown by the PM office clarification.

“India’s position has remained consistent on relationship with Pakistan,” Katju told Al Jazeera.

“What struck me was that whatever the Pakistani prime minister said in his interview, it was all nullified by the subsequent statement from his office, putting the condition of reversal of Article 370.”

Source: Al Jazeera