ISLAMABAD: Hopes of Pakistan and India working their way back to normal relations received a major setback when Delhi called off on Monday the Aug 25 meeting of foreign secretaries of the two countries because of Pakistani high commissioner’s consultative session with a Hurriyat leader.

The foreign secretaries were to meet for exploring the way forward in the stalemated relationship in pursuance of the decision taken by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in their meeting in Delhi in May.

The cancellation statement followed a meeting of Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit with Hurriyat leader Shabbir Ahmed Shah. Mr Basit was to meet other leaders from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference over next couple of days for consultations.

Consultations between Pakistan government and Kashmiri leadership ahead of important engagements with India have been the standard practice because of presence of the Kashmir issue on the bilateral agenda. However, it was the first time that India has cancelled an important bilateral meeting on the excuse of a meeting of the Pakistani envoy with a Hurriyat leader.


Jaitley cites ceasefire violations


Pakistan’s Foreign Office reacted sharply to the development saying Delhi’s decision was “a setback to the efforts” for rapprochement between the two countries.

It further said that practice of meeting Kashmiri leaders ahead of bilateral engagements was meant to facilitate meaningful discussions on the issue of Kashmir.

Dawn’s correspondent in New Delhi, Jawed Naqvi, adds: Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, touring the border in Punjab, suggested that alleged ceasefire violations by Pakistan were deliberately staged to subvert normalisation of ties.

India’s decision to call off the secretary-level meeting came shortly after Mr Basit met moderate Hurriyat leader Shabbir Shah in the first of a series of meetings planned over three days. Mr Shah regretted the decision to cancel the talks, saying he was in Delhi to support the proposed foreign secretaries’ meeting in Islamabad.

Local reports said Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, who was due to meet her Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhury on August 25, spoke to Mr Basit and expressed India’s displeasure in “clear and unambiguous terms”.

“Pakistan’s continued effort to interfere in India’s internal affairs is unacceptable,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, adding, “It raises questions about Pakistan’s sincerity and undermines the constructive diplomatic efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May.”

New Delhi’s decision came on the heels of its standoff with UNMOGIP, the UN-mandated observers being forced to vacate their decades-old official residence in the capital. It also followed string of terse diplomatic exchanges triggered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s accusations during his visit to Kashmir that Pakistan was too weak to fight a war so it was inflicting terrorism on India.

Analysts said the calling off of talks marked a giant step back for diplomatic ties that received a boost after Mr Modi, in a surprising move, invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with other South Asian leaders to his swearing-in ceremony in Delhi in May.

On Friday, Mr Modi also made a sharp departure from Independence Day speeches by his predecessors by not mentioning Pakistan at all in his address to the nation.

For his part, Mr Jaitley was quoted as saying on Monday that Pakistan and “powers within” it clearly did not want ties with India to be normal.

“It is clear that there is deliberate ceasefire violation from Pakistan side. Earlier, it was only on the Line of Control (LoC) but now it is also on the international border,” he told reporters after visiting forward areas of Punjab border with Pakistan.

There have been 11 ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops along LoC and IB in Jammu region only during the past 10 days.

Mr Jaitley said he visited the forward posts of the armed forces along the border and said, “Our jawans are fully prepared to respond to any ceasefire violations by Pakistan.”

In Amritsar for a day, he visited the Kasowal BN enclave in Dera Baba Nanak sector and interacted with army and BSF jawans guarding the international border.

An army release in Chandigarh said Mr Jaitley motivated the troops and announced incentives for those deployed on the forward posts.

Mr Jaitley was accompanied by Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, Western Army Commander Lt Gen K J Singh and 11 Corps Commander Lt Gen N P Singh Hira.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

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