India gets tough with Pak, to snap cultural, political ties
New low: Visa-on-arrival at Wagah border gets hit again
The fragile Indo-Pak relations have touched a new low with the Centre deciding to review and possibly suspend all political and people-to-people contacts between the two nations to avenge Pakistan’s recent “pre-planned” mutilation of Indian soldiers along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Sopore sector.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated the hardening of stand when at an Army Day reception on Tuesday he ruled out “business as usual” with Pakistan.
“Those responsible for this crime will have to be brought to book,” he said. “Pakistan realises this.” On Pakistan refusing to acknowledge the unprovoked attack on January 8, Singh said, “We will keep trying.” But he refused to discuss options available before the Centre.
According to sources, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is also contemplating delaying the release of Pakistani prisoners languishing in different jails. Other than that, the new visa regime that was supposed to become operational on Tuesday has also become a victim of the hostile situation building up between the two after the border skirmish.
The government will take phased steps to mount pressure on Pakistan at different levels and is expected to make it public soon.
Justifying the decision to suspend visa facility, Singh said after this barbaric act, “there cannot be business as usual with Pakistan". Later, Singh met President Pranab Mukherjee to brief him on the tense situation.
Top decision makers of the UPA have decided to review and put on hold sports and cultural exchange programmes. It got reflected when Hockey India decided on Tuesday to send back nine Pakistani hockey players selected to play for different clubs in the ongoing premier league.
Meanwhile, the Board of Control for Cricket in India has requested the International Cricket Council to take a final call on venues for Pakistan women’s team that will be part of the Women’s World Cup to be played from January 31 to February 17.
All the matches of the eight-team tournament are to be held in various venues in Mumbai.
“The BCCI will convey the present Indo-Pak situation to the ICC and leave it to the international cricket body to take a call as it involves shifting logistics,” Union Minister and BCCI senior functionary Rajiv Shukla told Deccan Herald.
A senior Sports Ministry source said that the fate of the Pakistan women cricket “will be ascertained after the Home Ministry takes a decision.”
It is learnt that a blue print of the structured response the UPA government should give to Islamabad has been put in place, after an intense top level confabulation with security stakeholders.
The government’s move is guided by the incensed public mood and to counter the neighbour’s betrayal post Monday’s brigadier-level meeting to defuse tension on the border in Jammu and Kashmir.
National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon met top BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley to apprise them of the government stand and take their feed back on emerging situation on Indo-Pak relations.
Sources said that it has been decided not to entertain representatives from intelligentsia or any cultural icon from Pakistan for participating in realty shows in the country going by the feed back from the security agencies that a possible attack on visiting dignitary will fuel tension between the two countries.
The Home Ministry is also likely to suspend release of prisoners held in different jails as a mark of protest. While India was suppose to set free 29 prisoners and fishermen by April 15, Islamabad had agreed to release about 100 fishermen taken into their custody for violating maritime boundaries.
But, if the UPA takes stern step, Pakistan will also hit back by not liberating fishermen and other Indian prisoners, including death row convict Sarabjit Singh. His mercy petition is lying with the Pakistan president.
On January 1, the two sides shared a list of nationals lodged in each other’s jails to confirm to a bilateral agreement signed in 2008 May for providing counsellor access to the inmates.
Pakistan has stepped diplomatic efforts by briefing ambassadors on the need to isolate India by suggesting a third party United Nations probe into the ceasefire violation.