Upon taking oath of office, the new External Affairs Minister of India, Mr Salman Khurshid, has declared that it is his primary mission to improve relations with Pakistan and China. The statement needs to be welcomed because Islamabad and, if he is to be believed, New Delhi as well want to sit together and find solution to disputes that have kept relations between the two countries hostage for all these years. However, he needs to be reminded that there has been no dearth of efforts by Pakistan to resolve them in a just manner so that both Pakistan and India could devote their energies to meeting the basic needs of their people. But, sadly, it has suffered repeated setbacks during the course of negotiations simply for want of India’s genuine interest to pursue them to their logical conclusion. India has preferred to talk about peripheral matters, but that, too, never with the intention of reaching a settlement. Whenever negotiations have come down to brass tacks, it has betrayed a sense of non-seriousness. If anything, it has insisted on advancing its own agenda to the neglect of Pakistan’s concerns. For instance, on Kashmir, which is so vital to our survival that Quaid-i-Azam called it the jugular vein of Pakistan, it has invariably refused to discuss it in a meaningful manner. So much so that, flying in the face of its own commitments to the international community, Pakistan as well as the people of Kashmir, it terms the disputed state as its inseparable part (atoot ang), leaving little to talk about. It is difficult to avoid the feeling that New Delhi is keeping other issues, like Sir Creek and Siachen, alive for fear that then the talks would have to turn to Kashmir.

This stubborn attitude has to be given up before India could expect an improvement in relations with Pakistan. The Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom from India’s clutches that has gone on unabated for decades despite its highly repressive policies should serve as an eye opener. The people in the Valley observed Eid day as Black Day when protest demonstrations and sit-ins marked their anger at New Delhi’s landing of the troops in Kashmir and its forcible occupation. Speaking on the occasion, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has stated that the presence of 700,000-strong large military force in the Valley proves the point that India is keeping its hold on the occupied state against the wishes of the people. Mr Salman Khurshid should, instead of paying lip service to the betterment of bilateral relations, take up contentious issues with sincerity. For Kashmir, the main stumbling block to his wish, the procedure for solving the dispute is outlined. All that needs to be done is to let the UN hold a plebiscite under its supervision to ensure that the people cast their votes to join Pakistan or India freely, without any pressure. Indian-managed elections in the occupied state are no substitute for plebiscite, as rightly pointed out by the Mirwaiz.