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Pakistan signals statehood in J&K key to movement forward


Pakistan has conveyed to India that the February 25 renewal of the 2003 ceasefire along the Line of Control can lead to a wider engagement only if and when Delhi restores statehood to Jammu & Kashmir as a “starting point” for a discussion on the resolution of the Kashmir issue, The Indian Express has learnt.

The joint statement issued by the Directors General of Military Operations does not reflect any change in the Pakistani position that Kashmir is a “dispute” and that its resolution is anchored by the United Nations Security Council resolutions, said authoritative sources in Pakistan who did not wish to be identified.

Moreover, they added, the statement in no way implies the acceptance of the Indian “narrative” of a “deal” on Kashmir.

In a first indication of how Pakistan views relations with India after the ceasefire, and the gap in positions between the two sides, these sources indicated that for any wider engagement, India must create an “enabling environment” by restoring statehood to J&K.

This, they said, would then facilitate “a conversation” that would include “Kashmiri voices front and centre” on the way forward and open up space potentially for discussions on other bilateral issues.

The sources rejected what they called the “narrative” in India that the DGMO agreement was a sign of Pakistan’s “desperation” and “weakness”, or the notion that it could be used by India to signal to the world that “Pakistan and India are talking and everything is fine, or to tell people in (Kashmir) that there is some underhand deal and that Kashmir is done and dusted”.

For its part, Delhi has signalled that if the ceasefire holds and no terrorist incidents occur that could be traced back to Pakistan, wider normalisation of ties could follow.

At the same time, it has stressed that restoration of J&K statehood is an assurance underlined several times in the Lok Sabha by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and there is little to discuss beyond that.

In Pakistan’s view, the ceasefire was something it had “talked about publicly” for nearly two years. It had been on the table, and for “whatever reasons”, India was reluctant all this time, and for “whatever reasons”, it had agreed now, the sources in Pakistan said.

They also stressed that the agreement was purely for tactical reasons because of the situation at the LoC — “at the end of the day, only innocent people were dying, and it was not going to change anything on the ground” — and to link it to some “grand plan” in which this was the first step was “incorrect”.

The “entire Pakistan system” – the Prime Minister, the Army chief, the Foreign ministry, the Special Representative on National Security – was on board the idea that if the agreement opened up spaces for wider engagement, Pakistan would be “willing to engage”, because it views peace with India as a pre-requisite for its own economic stability now at the core of its idea of national security, the sources said.