NEW DELHI: The cancellation of the foreign secretary level talks by the Modi government has established a hard line policy towards both Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir, effectively burying the so called legacy of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on both these fronts.

In an assertive declaration of a new hard approach following the RSS doctrine, the Modi government’s sudden inexplicable decision has strengthened the military in Pakistan, and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. It has also united all

The mood within the Valley while alienated from New Delhi had also been very critical of Pakistan over the past several years. However, the fact that when given an ultimatum Pakistan went with Kashmir has softened the criticism considerably. Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani who had been compelled to move away from his earlier pro-Pakistan to a more ambivalent position perhaps summed this up best when he said, that by choosing Kashmir over New Delhi, Pakistan had vindicated its stand on the border state. He told the Rising Kashmir in Srinagar that he was overwhelmed by this, and “It is a great achievement for Pakistan. They have shown to the world that Kashmiri’s are not alone in their struggle.”

This is a major shift and flies in the face of deliberate efforts by Indian politicians, officials and intelligence agencies to build on the anti-Pakistan sentiment here. Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit went ahead with his meetings with the separatist leaders after rejecting New Delhi’s “India or the separatists” ultimatum.

The pro-Pakistan sentiment in the Valley, sources here said, will be definitely encouraged by this development as there has been a perceptible shift in mood for Islamabad’s ‘gesture’ through its mission here.

Two, the Pakistan military will also be strengthened within Pakistan as it was opposed to the visit by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to New Delhi on the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his oath taking ceremony. The military has been resistant to Sharif’s efforts to open all doors for improving relations with India, and the sudden cancellation of the foreign secretary level talks scheduled to begin on August 25 has fed directly into this institutionalised hostility.

The current crisis in Pakistan, with PM Sharif coming under direct pressure from protesters led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf leader Imran Khan is not being opposed by the Army. although there is no confirmation of its support. Pakistani commentators are clear that if the demonstration leads to the storming of the bastions of power, the military would have no choice but to step in by removing the ‘irritant’ Sharif and placing itself in power until (and if) fresh elections are held.

Sharif’s position is further weakened after the cancellation of the talks, as clearly his visit did not succeed in opening any door with the new government in New Delhi.

Kashmir is an emotive issue in Pakistan even today, and while there is a growing constituency to improve relations by keeping it on the back burner for a while, all Pakistani’s agree that there can be no final peace without its resolution. The fact that India has snapped the talks on Kashmir as it were, has strengthened the Pakistan Army’s hardline position of bringing Kashmir to the front of the national agenda, and prising open the window of opportunity that has offered itself through the Indian decision in the Valley.

In the Kashmir Valley all shades of opinion have united in condemning the decision. National Conference president Farooq Abdullah who speaks for the centre more often than not has attacked the cancellation of the talks as “very unfortunate” adding, “These meetings have happened in the past as well. Engaging in talks and allowing a multi-spectrum engagement to resolve political issues exhibits strength and confidence, not weakness”.

“People of Jammu & Kashmir were both the biggest sufferers of animosity and hostility between India and Pakistan and also conversely the biggest beneficiaries of sustained peace and cooperation between India and Pakistan. NC hopes and appeals that dialogue process is resumed at the earliest possible instance and that this is done in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding between New Delhi and Islamabad,” he said.

Meanwhile, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president and MP, Mehbooba Mufti, said India and Pakistan can’t live in perpetual hostility and there is no option other than peace in South Asia which can be achieved only through dialogue and reconciliation.

Addressing various wayside meetings in Tral constituency in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, she said dialogue process can’t be held hostage to hawkish voices or unforeseen interruptions. “But, it is unfortunate that the Modi government has failed to reach the visionary levels of Atal Bihari Vajpayee who has set a new course for resolving South Asia’s endemic problems”.

Mehbooba said aggressive posturing has never helped in sorting out matters and the futility of such hard-line stance has been established in the past as after every cancellation of talks we have had to come back to the negotiation table.

“The alibi given out for calling off Foreign Secretary level talks is patently fake as the Hurriyat leaders have always been meeting the Pakistani diplomats on different occasions. Visionary leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee had seized upon such interactions to give a new direction to Indo-Pak relations which could lead to lasting peace in the entire region,” she added.

Sources here conversant with the Kashmir issue for years told The Citizen that with this decision it was clear that the Vajpayee ‘legacy’ within his own party was dead and buried. The former Prime Minister had opened talks with the Kashmiri separatists and also allowed channels of communication to be further developed between Islamabad and the Kashmiri leaders through the meetings with visiting politicians.

The government’s decision has deepened the sense of alienation within the Valley, that has always looked upon bilateral talks with a sense of hope oft belied though. However, when talks did not proceed both countries were to blame, but as the Kashmiri politicians have pointed out this time around the pretext was flimsy and unacceptable. In the process Islamabad has emerged for Kashmir as the sole ‘listener’ with expectations from it in the Valley having increased from minus to sizably high plus levels overnight.