NEW DELHI: Days after Parliament voted to void Article 370 by removing Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipped any mention of Pakistan but pointedly referred to Afghanistan, offering advance congratulations for soon completing its 100th year of freedom.
The reference, just as the absence of any mention of Pakistan, can be expected to annoy the Pakistani establishment. The Pakistani leadership on Wednesday devoted its own Independence Day speeches to Kashmir, without much mention of the Pakistan nation, and promised to get even with India.
Felicitating Afghanistan for its centenary year of declared independence, Modi said, “Afghanistan is a good neighbour of India, and I wish the country for celebrating 100 years of independence this year.” The remark is likely to be read as a signal that India has considerable stakes in Afghanistan and will remain engaged in any future plans which seek to provide a role for Taliban.
Afghanistan celebrates its Independence Day on August 19, when its leader Amanullah Shah defeated the British in 1919, even though the country was never really part of the British empire.
But in the current context, Modi’s remark is also a veiled reference to the fact that the Afghan nation is trying to work out a peace process to stop the fighting with Taliban. Pakistan is the primary supporter of Taliban and the US is keen that Islamabad facilitate the peace process which would allow America to withdraw its forces from the country after 18 years.
Pakistan is willing to consider proposals that will help its proxy or ally to be part of the ruling structure in Kabul and is also looking to use the opportunity to get the US to pressure India to re-open talks on J&K. These plans have received a serious setback with the Indian decision to do away with J&K’s special status and reorganise the state into two Union Territories.
At the heart of the peace process is the issue of terrorism, and Modi zeroed in on the source of the terror. “India is strongly fighting against those who are spreading terrorism. Terrorism in any part of the world is a war against humanity and hence all humanitarian forces should come together to expose the real face of those who harbour, promote or export terrorism,” he said.
“Those who give protection to terrorism and support it must be completely exposed,” he said, adding, “Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka are also affected by terrorism. All countries in the world need to come together to fight this menace.” Pakistan was conspicuously missing from this list.