Common sense prevails
In a reversal of sorts, the Indian government has officially taken a step back from its position against the Hurriyat —an umbrella outfit of separatist elements in the Kashmir Valley. The government has clarified that Hurriyat leaders are free to meet Pakistani leaders since they have the freedoms due to all Indian citizens. For the past two years, the Modi government had imposed a policy, whereby any meeting between Pakistani officials and Hurriyat leaders was seen as a crossing of the proverbial “red line”. Scheduled talks between the two countries were cancelled last year as a result. Not anymore, though. A change of heart reflects common sense since such a position has grown increasingly untenable. “Since the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Union of India and these so-called Kashmiri “leaders” are Indian citizens, there is no bar on their meetings with representatives of any country in India,” said Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh, in a written answer to Parliament last week. He, however, clarified that there could be no role for any third party in the India-Pakistan dialogue process. “India has consistently maintained that there is no role for a third party in the bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan as per the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration,” he added. “India’s displeasure at Pakistan’s attempts to interfere in India’s internal affairs has been repeatedly conveyed to Pakistan.” Since the Agra summit in 2001, senior Pakistani officials have often met Hurriyat leaders before official talks with their Indian counterparts. Although New Delhi was not enamored by the idea, it was tolerated. But all that changed with the advent of the Modi government. Last year, scheduled meetings between the respective Foreign Secretaries and national security advisors were cancelled against the threat of Pakistani officials meeting Hurriyat leaders. Trying to defend an untenable position, the government went to the extent of locking up its leaders. As a result, the government inadvertently brought the separatist group into the limelight. The Hurriyat remain a non-entity in the larger scheme of things. But India’s position began to change after a secret meeting in Bangkok between the NSAs of both countries, which opened a new channel of communication on security and terrorism-related concerns. In other words, the government has seen the futility of leveraging talks with Pakistan on the backs of a non-entity like the Hurriyat.