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India-Pak. talks are off

Kashmiri separatist leader Shabir Shah withPakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit (right) inNew Delhi on Monday. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt  

Angered by the Pakistan High Commissioner’s refusal to call off talks with Kashmiri separatist leaders, despite Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh calling up High Commissioner Abdul Basit to request it, India on Monday called off talks with Pakistan.

In a move that effectively cancels the India-Pakistan dialogue process restarted by Prime Minister Modi just three months ago, the government called off talks between the Foreign Secretaries scheduled in Islamabad on August 25, 2014 over Mr. Basit’s decision to meet Hurriyat leaders. The decision was conveyed to Mr. Basit just minutes after he met the leader of J&K Democratic Freedom Party Shabir Shah, that the meeting “with these so called leaders of the Hurriyat undermines the constructive diplomatic engagement initiated by Prime Minister Modi in May on his very first day in office.”

According to the government’s statement, “The invitation to so-called leaders of the Hurriyat by Pakistan’s High Commissioner does indeed raise questions about Pakistan’s sincerity, and shows that its negative approaches and attempts to interfere in India’s internal affairs continue unabated... Under the present circumstances, it is felt that no useful purpose will be served by the Indian Foreign Secretary going to Islamabad next week.”

In its reply, the Pakistani Foreign office called India’s move to cancel talks a “setback to the efforts to promote good neighbourly relations with India”, and said the meeting with Kashmiri leaders was a “long-standing practice” prior to Pakistan-India talks. Officials at the High Commission in Delhi said the decision had come as a "surprise".

In the past, India has raised objections, but taken no action when Pakistani diplomats and leaders met with Kashmiri separatist leaders. Sources say the decision was taken at the “highest political level” by the government, and came on a day Defence Minister Arun Jaitley had toured forward areas of the LoC and international borders, criticising Pakistan for “deliberate ceasefire violations”. “Pakistan and ‘powers within’ it clearly do not want ties with India to be normal," Mr. Jaitley said.

Foreign Secretaries of the two countries were set to meet after a hiatus of two years in the dialogue process, to discuss the way forward in talks. While the two diplomats were set to discuss “all outstanding issues”, they were specifically tasked with deciding the agenda for talks between the Prime Ministers on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly summit in September. The decision to cancel these talks effectively calls into question those meetings as well as ends the bonhomie since May this year, marked by the summit-level talks, exchange of letters, and gifts between the two leaders.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 6:55:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-calls-off-foreign-secretarylevel-talks-with-pakistan/article6329082.ece

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