NEW DELHI: THE stalemate over bilateral talks between India and Pakistan continues. India on Wednesday expressed willingness to hold Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan, but asked it to focus on cross-border terrorism instead of Kashmir. “The terrorism issue has become so central to relation, it makes relationship as a whole to progress,” said Foreign Secretary S Jaishanker.
He also contended that Pakistan’s “different view” to the issues of connectivity in the Saarc region has made it a “difficult partner”.
Earlier, Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad Gautam Bambawale conveyed New Delhi’s response to the Pakistan government. Said source, “Since aspects related to cross-border terrorism are central to the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir, we have proposed that discussions between the foreign secretaries focus on it.” Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary on Monday called in Bambawale and handed over an invitation for the Indian Foreign Secretary for talks. Pakistan had called for a discussion on the Kashmir dispute as it was the “bone of contention” between the two countries.
India is said to have reiterated that “the government has conveyed that it rejects in their entirety the self-serving allegations regarding the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India where Pakistan has no locus standi”.
The two foreign secretaries had met in April in a bid to resolve the diplomatic deadlock and resume the bilateral dialogue process that has been suspended since the Jaish-e-Muhammad attack on the Pathankot airbase in January. Since the start of the unrest in the Kashmir Valley in July, bilateral relations between India and Pakistan have reached a nadir as Islamabad sought to internationalise the issue.
Pakistan’s talk proposals have been interspersed with its rhetoric about extending moral support to the people of Kashmir and other provocative statements.
Meanwhile in Srinagar, attempts by moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Geelani to lead marches to the office of the United Nations Military Observors Group were scuttled by police. Mirwaiz defied house arrest and tried to take out a march from his Nigeen residence along with a dozen supporters but police stopped and took them into custody. Despite the curfew and tough restrictions, people at many places in the state capital attempted to march towards the UN office.