India rejects Pakistan’s call for plebiscite in Kashmir

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Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United Nations in the last week of September, Pakistan has trumpeted the K word again. Islamabad has sought to up the ante by asking for a plebiscite in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. After the recent cancellation of the National Security Advisor-level talks between India and Pakistan, this Kashmir pitch by Pakistan could only fuel tensions in the already hostile relations between the two estranged neighbours.

The issue of holding a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir was raked up at a UN forum by Pakistan’s Acting Speaker of the National Assembly Murtaza Javed Abbasi. “It is time to enable the people of Jammu and Kashmir to exercise their right to self-determination through an independent and impartial plebiscite under the United Nations,” he said. Reacting strongly to his statement, Sumitra Mahajan, Speaker of Lok Sabha (India’s lower House) said: “Jammu and Kashmir has been an integral part of India since independence and elections have been held in the state for the past many years. Pakistan should keep in mind that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have voted to elect their state government. What can be more democratic than this,” she said. Ms Mahajan strongly rejected Pakistan’s call for a plebiscite.

Pakistan has been raking up the issue of a plebiscite in Kashmir under the UN from time to time, only to be met with rebuff by India and practically no resonance from the international community. The unresolved Kashmir issue lie at the heart of perennially hostile relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

As there is a deadlock in peace talks between the two countries at this point of time, raking up the issue of plebiscite hasn’t done any good to either side in defusing tensions. The pitch by Pakistan to rake up the Kashmir issue at the UN has also dimmed the prospects of a meeting between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of the UNGA. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif are expected to be at the UNGA in New York around September 24-25, but given the febrile state of relations following the cancellation of talks between the NSAs, as envisaged in their Ufa meeting, a bilateral meeting between them looks highly unlikely.

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