NEW DELHI: India called off a planned meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York this month, aggravating tensions between the longtime rivals.
External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said Friday India’s decision to pull out of the meeting, which had been announced just a day earlier, follows the killing of an Indian border guard in Kashmir and Pakistan’s glorification of insurgents fighting Indian rule in the Himalayan territory.
The Indian government’s decision to hold talks with Pakistan was strongly criticized by the Congress party and other opposition groups after rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir killed the border guard and later raided over a dozen homes of police officers and abducted three. The bullet-riddled bodies of the three policemen were recovered Friday. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the insurgents, a charge Pakistan denies.
The announcement on Thursday of the planned meeting had been considered an encouraging sign for restarting stalled talks between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors. Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over the disputed region of Kashmir, divided between the two countries but sought by each in its entirety.
Pakistan said it regretted India’s decision not to meet, with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi saying that “clapping can’t be done with a single hand.”
He said Pakistan wanted peace and stability in the region, but that India was perhaps more worried about “internal politics.”
“We want to get out of the past and we have taken a step forward but unfortunately India has taken a step back,” he said in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.
Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said “an extremist segment in India doesn’t want to see Pakistan and India move ahead on the path of dialogue to resolves issues.”
The Indian spokesman said that New Delhi had agreed to hold the meeting in response to a letter from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, stressing the need to bring positive change, a mutual desire for peace, and a readiness to discuss terrorism.
“Now, it is obvious that behind Pakistan’s proposal for talks to make a fresh beginning, the evil agenda of Pakistan stands exposed and the true face of the new prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has been revealed to the world in his first few months in office,” he said in a statement.
Any conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless, Kumar said.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a formal statement described the comments about Khan as “most unfortunate” and “against all norms of civilized discourse and diplomatic communication.”
Rejecting Indian allegations, the statement said the reasons cited by the Indian side for the cancelation of the meeting, within 24 hours of its public confirmation, were “entirely unconvincing as the alleged killing of BSF soldier took place two days prior to the Indian announcement of its agreement to hold the bilateral meeting.”
India’s relations with Pakistan have deteriorated since Modi came to power in 2014.