Norwegian PM Erna Solberg’s suggestion is at odds with the purpose of her visit to India.
The offer to mediate between India and Pakistan by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and the subsequent denial and explanation should be seen in the light of India’s firm stand that all issues between the two countries can only be resolved through bilateral engagement without any outside intervention.
The fourth edition of the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi deliberating on geopolitical and strategic issues with reference to India has started off with a controversial statement by Prime Minister of Norway Ema Solberg, who happened to deliver the inaugural address of the conference.
Speaking to the media after the inauguration of the new embassy building in New Delhi the Norwegian PM stirred a controversy saying that her country was willing to mediate between India and Pakistan. She also claimed, “It is true Norway has done a lot of work on mediation for peaceful settlement… But one of the most important parts of that is that nobody from outside can create peace or make changes. It has to come from inside. If there is a movement in India and Pakistan for greater talks together, of course countries can help.”
It is evident that the visiting PM clearly wanted to impress upon India the need to approach Norway for mediation. It is not known if Pakistan had already made such an appeal to her government. In a way, the visiting dignitary’s statement, “Our government policy is very clear. If we are going to help somewhere, they have to ask for it,” reveals more than what it seeks to conceal.
In fact, this is not the first time that a suggestion for outside mediation between India and Pakistan is being openly stated.
Pakistan had written to the then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in 2014 pleading for the immediate intervention by the UN in the Jammu and Kashmir issue which, according to Islamabad, was the main issue of conflict between the two countries.
According to reports, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) dismissed the issue in less than a minute as none of the members showed any interest. Pakistan’s request that the UN intervene to defuse the Indo-Pak tension was virtually rejected and the Council asked Islamabad to crack down on terrorist groups operating in Kashmir.
The Council also stated that there is no support for Pakistan’s request among the Security Council’s 15 members who stressed that it is a bilateral issue and needs to be resolved by the two countries.
Not to be outdone, former Chief Minister of J&K Farooq Abdullah advocated that India should third parties such as the United States and China to mediate in the Kashmir dispute.
Speaking to the media, he had said, “For how long are you going to wait? Sometimes, you have to pull the bull by its horns. The way is to have a dialogue. India has so many friends all across the world. They can ask them to act as a mediator. US President Trump himself said that he wants to settle Kashmir problem. China also said that it wants to mediate in Kashmir. Somebody has to be approached.”
Ironically, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had always fought a bitter political battle with Farooq’s party and which was actually sharing power with the BJP in J&K, welcomed Abdullah’s advocacy. (Senior PDP leader Sartaj Madni had acknowledged Abdullah’s statement.)
But the Union government strongly rejected such appeals and stood its ground that all issues between India and Pakistan will be resolved only bilaterally and talks cannot be held as long as Pakistan continues with terrorism as its state policy.
Farooq’s son Omar Abdullah supported his father’s appeal to seek outside mediation especially from US and China.
Ironically, when the US and the UK had suggested the possibility of mediation in 2002, Omar Abdullah, then Minister of State for External Affairs, rejected such suggestions and strongly criticised it as the West’s daydream.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is on an international tour—with a begging bowl as it were—to save his country from imminent economic collapse. He is reportedly having a tough time convincing world capitals that he can independently take political decisions, including sorting out issues with India.
But his state is controlled and handled by the Pakistan Army, ISI and the infamous non-state actors do not want any resolution of issues with India.
Without democratisation, de-radicalisation and reining in the unrestricted power of the Army, it is impossible to have meaningful talks with Islamabad, much less resolving Kashmir.
The world community has realised the futility of talks with Pakistan and is concerned with increasing radicalisation and terror activities emanating from its soil. At a time when more power and support must be placed on New Delhi’s side in its fight against terrorism, the Norwegian PM’s offer is not only unwelcome but totally out of sync with the agenda of the conference (A World Reorder: New Geometries; Fluid Partnerships; Uncertain Outcomes) she has come to attend and inaugurate.
The author is former editor of ‘Organiser’.
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