Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said India should not have cancelled the Foreign Secretary-level talks, insisting that there was “nothing new” in consulting Kashmiri leaders ahead of a dialogue.
“We had been talking to the Kashmiri leaders in the past whenever Pakistan-India talks are held. This is nothing new as we have to seek the opinion of the Kashmiri leaders on an issue that concerns them the most,” Mr. Sharif told reporters on board his aircraft while returning home from the 18th SAARC Summit on Thursday.
Consultations held by Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi with Kashmiri separatists led to the >cancellation by India of Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh’s visit to Islamabad in September. Since then both countries have maintained that they are willing to engage in a meaningful dialogue provided the other side takes the initiative.
Mr. Sharif said that India should not have cancelled the Foreign Secretary-level talks as was agreed upon during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi following his swearing in at New Delhi, The News reported.
He said Pakistan wishes to pursue the dialogue process from a position of dignity, honour and self-respect.
“We believe in it and will maintain it at all costs,” he said.
Mr. Sharif said Pakistan desires a “meaningful” dialogue to resolve all issues including the Kashmir dispute.
His remarks come after frosty India-Pakistan ties briefly gave way to some warmth on Thursday when Mr. Modi and Mr. Sharif shook hands and exchanged pleasantries, but India cautioned against reading too much into such “courtesies“.
Moments before the SAARC Summit concluded after two days of deliberations in Kathmandu, Mr. Modi and Mr. Sharif shook hands and exchanged a few sentences to loud applause of other leaders and their delegations which were witness to the cold vibes between the two Prime Ministers at the opening session when they ignored each other.
Mr. Sharif said he twice shook hands with his Indian counterpart and exchanged pleasantries at the SAARC Summit.
He said Pakistan has always desired a meaningful dialogue with India with sincerity and wants it to be reciprocated from the other side.
When asked how the ice between the two leaders was broken, Mr. Sharif said when he arrived at the retreat, Mr. Modi along with other leaders was already there. He met others and also shook hands with Mr. Modi.
Mr. Sharif also categorically stated that if India wants to restore ties, the Kashmir issue must be discussed and “that too seriously with full sincerity”.