India willing to hold talks if Pakistan first tackles terror

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump during a meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA74 at United Nations on Sep 24, 2019. (Photo: IANS/MEA)

New York:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi told US President Donald Trump that India is not shying away from talks with Pakistan, but for that it expects Islamabad to take some concrete steps, which has not happened.

Modi also told Trump that though India has the second largest number of Muslims in the world, there has been “significantly lower level” of Indian Muslims participating in global terror activities or getting radicalized.

Earlier, Trump backed India on Pakistan-sponsored terror, and said that Modi would “take care” of the issue, while answering questions by reporters before they sat down for the bilateral.

“We expect some concrete steps to happen but we do not find any effort by Pakistan,” said Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, briefing reporters later.  “Modi and Trump had a “long discussion on terrorism”.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Modi explained in some detail the challenges India has faced on account of terrorism, especially in Jammu and Kashmir.  “The PM underscored that 42,000 lives have been lost to terror attacks in the last 30 years, and that it is incumbent on the international community to join together to fight the scourge. The PM also mentioned that globally from a number of developed countries, a significant number of foreign fighters, have participated in terror activities globally.

“He pointed out that the low level of radicalization in India is an important fact that should be recognised by the international community,” he said, adding that Trump “acknowledged and took note of the fact”.

India expects the “overtures that PM made over the years and ought to have been reciprocated have never been reciprocated”, he said, mentioning Modi’s visit to Lahore in December 2015 “with minimum security”. The terror attack on the Pathankot air base followed immediately, and the perpetrators have not been brought to justice, said Gokhale.

He said that both Modi and Trump felt the two sides must come together to fight terrorism. “The focus of discussions this time was on the impact of terrorism and the fact that it needs to be understood where the origin of that is, and how we tackle it jointly,” he added.

On Trump’s offer of mediation, which he had made again during the press conference with Pakistan PM Imran Khan on Monday, Gokhale said that India’s position on the issue is fairly clear that “if there are issues to be discussed with Pakistan, it will be discussed bilaterally”.

Imran Khan also called for the lifting of the curfew in Kashmir, saying he will continue to highlight the Kashmir issue at every forum and will fulfil his promise of being the “ambassador of Kashmir.’’ He also asserted that his government will not hold any talks with India until New Delhi lifts a curfew in Kashmir and reinstates the disputed region’s special autonomous status.

Khan urged the world community to pressure India to give the right of self-determination to Kashmiris.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of ministerial group of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) dealing with Kashmir, the OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen has called for a resumption of the dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue.

According to the OIC, at the meeting on Wednesday of the four ministers constituting the OIC’s Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir, Al-Othaimeen “emphasised that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is among the most important agenda items for the OIC”. “He further insisted on the need for the resumption of the dialogue process between Pakistan and India, which is a prerequisite for development, peace and stability in South Asia,” according to an OIC press release.