India will not hold talks with Pakistan until it gives up its state policy of supporting militancy, the country’s Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla said, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was reelected in a general election fought on strong nationalistic sentiments.
Ties between India and Pakistan hit a new low after the Pulwama militant attack. Tensions flared up after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14.
Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out a counter-militancy operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured an IAF pilot, who was handed over to India. Shringla said the onus of the peace talks to improve the relationship between the two south Asian neighbours lies on Pakistan.
As long as a particular country uses militancy as an instrument of state policy and India continues to be at the receiving end of that policy, no Indian government will get a mandate from the people to reach out to that country, he told a group of American reporters as results of the general elections were declared in New Delhi in which Modi was voted back to power with a strong mandate.
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Responding to a question on the future of the India-Pak relationship, Shringla said the day Pakistan adjourns terrorism as a means of achieving its end, “I think the government will be within its mandate” to start a better relationship with its western neighbour.
“I think it is the desire of every Indian to have good relations with Pakistan. You see our relations with Bangladesh, you see our relations with Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Afghanistan. We have excellent relationships,” he said. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday congratulated Modi on his electoral triumph and expressed desire to work with him for peace and prosperity in the region.
Shringla said it is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inclusive effort – Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas – to be part of their development. His policy is development for all, including India’s neighbours, the top diplomat said. “We have committed USD 27 billion to the development of our neighbourhood and Pakistan is welcome to join. But it cannot be pursuing a policy of supporting terrorism on the one hand and then trying to talk of peace on the other. That double handed policy is not something that we can deal with anymore,” Shringla said.
Referring to the national sentiment in the aftermath of the Pulwama militant attack, Shringla said there is strong bipartisan support in India when it comes to dealing with militancy. “So what happens will depend largely on Pakistan, but I think we will have to wait and watch that space,” he added.