India cautiously responds to Imran’s talks offer as calls to avenge BSF jawan’s death grow louder

Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s offer to PM Narendra Modi of resuming the stalled peace dialogue comes at a time when the killing of a BSF constable has inflamed opinion in India

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia
Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

Dhairya Maheshwari

Even as India accepted Pakistan Imran Khan's offer of resuming the stalled peace dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad, the killing of Border Security Force (BSF) head constable Narendra Singh has turned into a major embarrassment for the government.

Singh was killed, according to army sources, during firing by Pakistan's notorious Border Action Team (BAT) along the International Border in Jammu's Ramgarh Sector on Tuesday, September 18. According to eventual accounts, Singh had been tortured for nine hours before his mutilated body was found by his unit.

The death has evoked a strong response from the Opposition and within the military community in India, with appeals to the government to avenge the killing.

'Kahan gaya 56'' ka seena aur kahan gayi laal aankh? Kahan gaya 1 ke badle 10 sar laane ka vaada? Govt is worried about the corrupt but not jawans. Modi ji uses Army for his political gains but doesn't think of their security. Nation demands answers you'll have to answer,'' said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, who paid a visit to Singh's village in Haryana.

Khan expressed hope in his letter that the meeting between the foreign ministers would lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Pakistan to attend the SAARC Summit. An MEA spokesperson however added that the “environment wasn’t conducive to hold a SAARC Summit in Pakistan,” effectively shutting the door on a bilateral visit by Modi to Pakistan in the near future

Major General Ashok Mehta (retired), a veteran of 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars, said that there must be "an eye for an eye" in response to Singh's killing by Pakistani soldiers. "We demand action from the authorities,'' the son of the martyred BSF constable was also quoted as saying in the media. He, however, said that the incident must be dealt with separately and not allowed to cast a shadow on the peace process, saying that the such heinous acts as the BSF soldier's killing could have been carried out by "local commanders." He noted that Imran Khan had made several positive gestures towards India since assuming power.

Lieutenant General (retired) Syed Ata Hasnain, former Corps Commander of the Indian Army, said if Khan was serious about taking forward the peace process, "he should work in the next few months to prevent any further sponsorship of the proxy war that Pakistan is pursuing against India." He added that Khan had the option of executing international sanctions against terrorist leaders if he wanted to send a positive message to India. Hasnain, however, warned that Pakistan's military leadership was likely to obstruct the peace process so not to lose any clout to Pakistan's political establishment on the Kashmir dispute.

MEA: Environment not conducive to hold SAARC Summit in Pakistan

In a letter Khan had written to Modi on September 14, he had called for a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month.

"Pakistan and India have an undeniably challenging relationship. We, however, owe it to our peoples, specially the future generations, to peacefully resolve  all outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, to bridge difference and achieve a mutually beneficial outcome," Imran wrote in his letter, adding that "Pakistan remains steady to discuss terrorism."

Khan expressed hope in his letter that the meeting between the foreign ministers would lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Modi's visit to Pakistan to attend the SAARC Summit.

Hours after the contents of the letter were reported in the media on Thursday, the official spokesperson at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) informed mediapersons that Swaraj would, indeed, meet her Pakistani counterpart in the US later this month to discuss a spate of issues. The last high level interaction between the leaders of the two countries was on December 25, 2015, when Modi had a surprise stopover in Pakistan on the occasion of then PM Nawaz Sharif's birthday.

The spokesperson however added that the "environment wasn't conducive to hold a SAARC Summit in Pakistan," effectively shutting the door on a bilateral visit by Modi to Pakistan in the near future.

Colonel (retired) Jaibans Singh, now a security expert, said that "some positivity can be shown in welcoming the some of Imran's initiatives to India. But he also cautioned that Imran "came with the reputation" of being closely linked to the "Pakistan's fundamentalist militant organisations."

He added, "His position vis-à-vis the Army is not yet crystallised."

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