Any talks with Pak now will only be on PoK, says Rajnath

Tuesday 20th August 2019 16:12 EDT

India's defence minister Rajnath Singh took a tougher stand to Pakistan suggesting that should bilateral talks happen, it would not be on Jammu and Kashmir, but Pakistan-occupied Kashmir - the territory under Pakistan's control since it invaded the state in 1947. “Now, if talks are held, they will only be held on the issue of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. There will be no talks on any other issue,” he said while addressing a public meeting in Haryana, where assembly elections are expected in October.

Singh said there have been suggestions that India and Pakistan should talk but the latter will have to meet the precondition of aiding and abetting terrorism before coming to the dialogue table. “What do they have to talk about? What is the topic? Why should there be talks? There will be a dialogue with Pakistan only after it ends support for terrorism. If Pakistan doesn’t do this, there is no reason for holding the talks.” Singh’s remarks come even as the UN Security Council (UNSC) only confined itself to closed door informal consultations on the situation in J&K after India reorganised the state into two Union territories.

Pakistan reacted by saying that Singh’s remarks were "reflective of the predicament that India finds itself in". Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, "As for the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, Pakistan’s position is based on UN Charter principles and international law and remains unchanged. The Jammu & Kashmir dispute is to be decided on the basis of the UN Security Council resolutions and in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people."

Singh’s comments comes days after he said that ‘no first use’ doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons is open for change in the future. “Pokhran is the area which witnessed Atalji’s firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the doctrine of ‘no first use’. India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in future depends on the circumstances,” Singh said in the presence of Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat. Singh had suggested that the no first use of nukes policy is open to review. It was seen as a reaction to Pakistan's move to raise the government's decision on Jammu and Kashmir in various international forums.

Earlier, the defense minister emphasized that the scrapping of Article 35A and the defanging of Article 370 was an internal issue of India. But the move has riled Pakistan. “Now it (Pakistan) is knocking every door and approaching various countries for help. Have we committed any crime? And they are trying to threaten us. However, America, perceived to be the most powerful country in the world by people, has snubbed Pakistan, telling them to initiate a dialogue with India,” he said.

In addition to Singh, home minister Amit Shah had also said in Parliament that India would lay claim to both PoK and Aksai Chin, which was illegally ceded by Pakistan to Chin.

India is one of the few countries that have a declared policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, elaborated in some detail in 1999 after Pokhran-2. There has been a debate of sorts within the government about relaxing the no-first-use policy.

BJP in 2014 manifesto spoke of N-doctrine

The UPA government inserted the first “tweak” after Pakistan developed tactical nuclear weapons. India indicated that Pakistan’s use of tactical nuclear weapons would invite an overwhelming response. In BJP’s 2014 manifesto, a pledge to “study in detail India’s nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it to make it relevant to challenges of current times” set off discussion on the no-first-use policy. There was no reference to the nuclear doctrine in the 2019 manifesto.

In 2010, then NSA Shivshankar Menon said prevailing situations would determine India’s nuclear posture. In a speech to the NDC, Menon said, “It is a result of our own history and experience, and we feel it best suited to our goals and situation. And it too is evolving, both consciously and unconsciously, as is the world around us. It is time now to consciously build our own concepts and strategic thinking, adapted to today’s realities and India’s environment, including on the role of force.”

Pakistan has always maintained its nukes are intended for India and maintained a deliberate ambiguity over its red lines. It has refused to spell out what will provoke use of nuclear weapons, leaving it to the world to guess if this would be severe battlefield setbacks or imminent collapse of the Pakistani state.

The uncertainty is intended to deter use of conventional force by India in response to its use of terror proxies. In 2016 and 2019, India’s use of conventional military power in response to Pakistan sponsored terrorism drove a breach in Islamabad’s posture.

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