India rejects Sharif's 'peace initiative' to demilitarise Kashmir

United Nations, Oct 1: India has rejected Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's "peace initiative" saying that de-terrorising Pakistan is the answer, not demilitarising Kashmir.

After raising the Kashmir issue at the General Assembly on Wednesday, Sharif proposed a four-point peace initiative for India that embraces demilitarising Kashmir, renouncing the use or threat of use of force, withdrawal from Siachen Glacier and formalising ceasefire along the Line of Control.

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In a rapid response, External Affairs Ministry Spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted, "To de-militarise Kashmir is not the answer, to de-terrorise Pakistan is."

"Peace can be achieved through dialogue, not disengagement," Nawaz said in his address to the General Assembly. "Cooperation, not confrontation, should define our relationship."

But before proposing the peace initiative, Nawaz made the acrimonious reference to Kashmir, equating it with Palestinian and portraying it as a religious issue.

"Muslims are suffering across the world: Palestinians and Kashmiris oppressed by foreign occupation," he said.

"The international community must redress these injustices against the Muslim people."

Swarup replied in a Tweet, "Pak(istan) PM gets foreign occupation right, occupier wrong. We urge early vacation of Pak(istan) occupied Kashmir."

Just after trying to internationalise Kashmir, Nawaz tried to couch the peace proposal as a bilateral move since India's condition is that the Kashmir dispute is a bilateral one and there should be no outside involvement. However, it did included a request to increase the UN Millitary Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP).

Although, Nawaz tried to strike a conciliatory note with his proposal and its phrasing, he insisted elsewhere in his speech on "consultations with Kashmiris, who are an integral part of the dispute."

New Delhi considers Kashmir an integral part of India and any such move an interference in internal affairs and counterproductive to a dialogue. Recent attempts at holding bilateral talks have been sabotaged by Pakistan bringing in the Kashmir question or engaging Kashmiri separatists.

Sharif referred to the recent ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and asserted, "Wisdom dictates that our immediate neighbour refrains from fomenting instability in Pakistan."

He said that "the two countries should address and resolve the causes of tension and take all possible measures to avert further escalation" and for this he asserted he was making the peace initiative proposal.

These were the four points in his proposal:

- Pakistan and India formalise and respect the 2003 understanding for a complete ceasefire on the Line of Control in Kashmir with increased monitoring by the UNMOGIP

- Pakistan and India reaffirm that they will not resort to the use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances.

- Demilitarise Kashmir

- Unconditional mutual withdrawal from Siachen Glacier,

"An easing of threat perceptions through such peace efforts will make it possible for Pakistan and India to agree on a broad range of measures to address the peril posed by offensive and advanced weapons systems," Sharif said.

However, beyond the international publicity that Nawaz hopes his announcement could generate for him, his initiative has internal contradictions.

As Swarup said in his tweet, demilitarising Kashmir would not be possible unless there was an end to terrorists backed by elements in the Pakistani government crossing over, which would be an unlikely development.

Similarly, the border tensions have been a result of cross-border terrorism.

Nawaz did not offer any credible solutions to terrorism directed against India, including a crackdown on anti-India terrorists or handing over to India those wanted for terror in India.

Swarup noted in a Tweet, "Pakistan's instability arises from its breeding of terrorists. Blaming neighbors is not a solution."

Nawaz tried to portray his country as "the primary victim of terrorism" and said, "We will fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, irrespective of who their sponsors are." He referred to Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which, he said, "has made substantial progress in cleansing our country of all terrorists and will conclude only when our objective has been accomplished."

On Monday, Afghanistan CEO Abdullah Abdullah, however, accused Pakistan on being a sanctuary for terrorists and of going back on its word to stop terrorism against his country.

Nawaz said Islamabad supported Security Council reforms. He did not make any direct mention of India's quest for a permanent seat. But in a snide remark that can be interpreted as directed against India, he said what was wanted was "not a Council, which is an expanded club of the powerful and privileged."


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