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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 36, August 29, 2015

Worsening Situation

Monday 31 August 2015, by SC


The India-Pakistan talks at the level of the two countries’ National Security Advisors—that were scheduled to take place in New Delhi on August 23—were called off late on August 22 night. The decision was taken by the Pakistan side in Islamabad no doubt, but it was in response to what External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said in New Delhi a few hours before. At her press conference that day, Swaraj had publicly stated that the NSA-level talks, as agreed upon at the Nawaz Sharif-Narendra Modi meeting on the sidelines of the formal sessions of the SCO and BRICS in Ufa (Russia), were to be confined to security matters and issues like Kashmir were not to be included in the agenda of discussions. She also categorically turned down Islamabad’s attempt to bring in the Hurriyat as a party in the Indo-Pak dialogue. Obviously both of these contentions of Swaraj were contested by the Pakistani authorities, including the country’s NSA, Sartaj Aziz, and eventually Pakistan decided that no useful purpose would be served by holding the August 23 talks; and hence the talks were cancelled.

Such an outcome of the proposed talks has led to further deterioration of India-Pakistan relations. As The Indian Express has editorially pointed out, it (that is, avoiding the worst case outcome) “will require levels of maturity and self-reflection little in evidence this past week”.

Meanwhile other developments to have attracted wide attention include the following: (a) on the back of a sharp decline in the Chinese and Japanese markets that fell 8.5 per cent and 4.6 per cent respectively, the Indian market crashed on August 24 plunging 1625 points (or 5.9 per cent) to a 12-month low of 25,741 (as a consequence Rs 7 lakh crores in market capitalisation of all BSE listed companies were wiped out within hours); and (b) there has been a wave of violence across Gujarat following the Patel community’s demand for OBC status as aired at a huge public rally in Ahmedabad by the Patidar Amanat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and its convenor Hardik Patel.

With the intensification of the Patel stir nine lives have till date been lost in Gujarat and the State forced to call in the Army. As of now, the PM’s appeal in Gujarati to the Patels to hold peaceful agitation and call off the stir has fallen on deaf ears as Hardik Patel has declared: “We uprooted the Congress, now 2017 is coming, lotus won’t bloom.” Is it just a hollow threat or a precursor of things to come?

At the same time while the vegetable prices are soaring with those of onions skyrocketing to Rs 80 a kilo, the Veterans’ OROP movement continues unabated in the Capital’s Jantar Mantar with several of those participating in ‘fast unto dealth’ hospitalised; and in Bihar large-scale communal conflagration resulting in religious polarisation threatens to vitiate the impending poll process with the BJP desperate to wrest power from CM Nitish Kumar and defeat the JD (U)-RJD-Congress combine by all means.

The situation is indeed grim allround as pygmies persist in their myopic activities on the political stage.

August 27 S.C.