India-Pakistan ties hit new low, Jaitley likely to skip SAARC meet


jaitley-pakSignalling a deepening frostiness in bilateral ties with Pakistan, India’s Finance Minister is expected to skip the meeting of SAARC finance ministers in Islamabad August 25-26. Instead, India may send economic affairs secretary for the SAARC meet, informed sources said.

There is no official word on Jaitley’s participation in the SAARC finance ministers’ meeting in Islamabad. The final decision will be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The relations between India and Pakistan have plummeted to a new low, with both sides trading accusations and playing a game of one-upmanship. In a tit-for-tat response to Pakistan’s support for violence in Jammu and Kashmir, PM Modi, in his Independence Day speech, subtly alluded to human rights violations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan, saying people from these regions currently administered by Pakistan have thanked him. This is the first time an Indian prime minister has raised Balochistan and PoK in their Independence Day message, signalling a hardening of the Modi government’s posture towards Pakistan and the drawing of a new line on Kashmir.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks from the rampart of the Red Fort on India's Independence Day, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Pakistan’s response to Mr Modi’s remarks suggest intransigence, which suggest that bilateral ties are headed for a deep freezer in days to come with minimal high-level contacts.

Early this month, Rajnath Singh had gone to Islamabad to attend the SAARC home ministers’ meeting, but his visit was clouded by accusations over the Kashmir issue. Mr Singh did not have any meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. Addressing the SAARC meet, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sought to up the ante by speaking about the “freedom struggle in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Most recently, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit antagonised India further by brazenly dedicating Pakistan’s Independence Day celebrations to Kashmir. India has sharply rejected Pakistan’s offer of dialogue and sending supplies to Jammu and Kashmir, saying Pakistan only exports terror, weapons, infiltrators and fake currency.

If this atmosphere of mutual suspicion and recrimination persists for long, it will make it difficult for Mr Modi to visit Islamabad for the SAARC summit later this year.