Ransom Notes Radio

India-Pakistan: India's Minister of External Affairs denounced recent remarks about Kashmir by Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif.

Sharif described Kashmir as Pakistan's "jugular vein" and called for its status to be determined by the UN and the Kashmiri people. He made the remarks on 30 April, Martyrs' Day, which is supposed to honor soldiers who died in Pakistan's wars with India. Sharif paid tribute to Kashmiris who died in their so-called freedom struggle.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid today said Sharif talked about Kashmir in "a manner which is unwholesome and unacceptable". He said the "tone and tenor of the speeches" that have been made are "completely and totally unacceptable" to India.

"I think that these are matters that, frankly, it is not for me to advise them on but are best left to bilateral discussions between civilian authorities. This is not the realm of the armed forces to be discussing publicly," he said.

"We acknowledge that and we associate ourselves with the commonly held position: the common position in our country that Kashmir is an integral part of our country, it is part of the idea of India, and there can be no remotest way in which we will accept any attempt to qualify that or to put a question mark on that. That should be categorically clear."

Khurshid said the Pakistan armed forces should focus on combating terrorism.

Comment: Martyrs' Day was the first time in his five months as army chief that Sharif spoke publicly about Kashmir. It also was the first time that he used the term "jugular vein" to describe Kashmir, though the term is not unique to him.

Sharif is emerging as very different from his suave, Westernized predecessor, General Kayani. He seems closer in style to General Zia ul Haq. He engineered the third period of martial law in Pakistan and was responsible for the "Islamicization" of the Pakistan government. Sharif has been provocative in his remarks about civilian government, Pakistani media and about Kashmir.

Sharif's emerging bellicosity is coinciding with the looming electoral victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalists. The results of the elections will be announced on 16 May. Some BJP politicians already have talked about adopting a more assertive policy towards Pakistan when the BJP returns to office. Many India analysts predict the incumbent Congress Party will experience its worst electoral defeat since independence.