Why it suits Modi to call off talks with Pak

Why it suits Modi to call off talks with Pak

 The decision to call off the foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan suits Prime Minister Narendra Modi politically at home, particularly in the run-up to the Assembly polls in four states—Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir—where the Congress is fighting hard to retain power.

Besides, by-elections are taking place for Assembly seats in several states, including UP and Bihar.The calling off of the talks deprives the Congress of an opportunity to attack Modi for being soft on Pakistan, and turning it into a poll issue, said BJP leaders.

The move also fits with Modi's bid to reassert the image he projected in his maiden Independence Day address and speeches recently at public meetings in Jammu and Kargil.

Over the past few days, the government has been accused of being on the back foot over its dealings with Pakistan since its troops resorted to unprovoked firing across the LoC, shelling Indian civilian areas. Senior Congress leaders have criticised Modi for not doing anything to stop Pakistan from violating ceasefire.

Pakistani troops have resorted to ceasefire violations 11 times in past 10 days. The latest saw exchange of heavy mortar fire at 20 border outposts and civilian areas along the International Border in the Jammu sector.

By calling off the talks, Modi intends to stave off criticism he used to hurl at the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government for “failing to act” when provoked by the Pakistani side.

In the last two months, Modi has visited Jammu and Kashmir twice to strengthen the BJP’s electoral hopes. In the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had won in three of the six seats from the state.

A tough stand on Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists would go down well in the Jammu and Ladakh regions of the state, where the BJP did well in the Lok Sabha polls, said party leaders.

Of the 36 Assembly seats in Jammu, the BJP leads in 28 seats. Of the 87 seats in the state, a party needs 44 to form a majority government.

The decision to call off the talks, as explained by an External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, was to drive home the point that Modi was firm when it came to India's position in Pakistan's interference in its internal affairs, and that it is “not acceptable”.

As seen by Modi, the Pakistan High Commissioner's invitation to the separatist leader undermines the constructive and unprecedented diplomatic efforts by him in May, when he invited Saarc-nation leaders, including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony.

In fact, the decision to hold foreign secretary-level talks was taken during Sharif's interaction with Modi then.

Some analysts have argued that the invite to Kashmiri leaders was in the hope that New Delhi would be provoked enough to unilaterally call off the talks. But BJP leaders say the political stakes in the coming Assembly polls are more important than the talks.

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