On a day Pakistan accused India of crossing a “red line” by raising alleged rights abuses in Balochistan, New Delhi said it wanted to discuss the vacation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir under “illegal occupation” by Islamabad.
The war of words heated up a day after India said it would take up Pakistan’s offer of talks provided they focus on cross-border terrorism and not the unrest in Kashmir, where more than 60 people have died in protests after the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.
India reiterated that foreign secretary S Jaishankar had accepted his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Chaudhry’s invitation to visit Islamabad for talks, which should focus on the “more pressing aspects of the Jammu and Kashmir situation”.
These aspects, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, include Pakistan ending cross-border terrorism and “incitement to violence and terrorism” in Kashmir, detaining and prosecuting terrorist leaders who have been active in supporting such violence, closing down terrorist camps, and denying safe haven, shelters and support to terrorists who have escaped Indian law.
The Indian foreign secretary also looks forward to discussing “the earliest possible vacation of Pakistan’s illegal occupation of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir”, Swarup told a news briefing.
Swarup also dismissed Islamabad’s contention that the Indian premier had crossed a red line as an “extraordinary remark from a senior functionary of Pakistan that recognizes no red lines in its own diplomacy”.
Earlier, Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson Nafees Zakaria told a news briefing in Islamabad that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had crossed a “red line” by raising Balochistan. He also said Pakistan will raise the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly next month.
Modi had brought up “atrocities” in Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in his Independence Day speech.
“It is the violation of the UN Charter...He (Modi) crossed the red line by talking about Balochistan,” Zakaria said. He added India was referring to Balochistan to “cover up” rights violations in Kashmir.
Zakaria alleged that India was involved in “subversive activities” in Balochistan and Karachi.
The UN Secretary General and members had been informed about the “precarious situation” in Kashmir and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would raise the issue at the world body, Zakaria said.
“The Prime Minister strongly pleaded the case of Kashmir during the General Assembly session last year and we will again forcefully raise the issue,” he said.
The UN and the world community should remind India to fulfil its commitment to give the right of self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, he added.
Spokesperson Swarup said India’s response to Pakistan’s offer of talks had rejected Islamabad’s “self-serving allegations” regarding Kashmir. “Pakistan has no locus standi in respect of Jammu & Kashmir, which is an integral part of our nation,” he added.
He accused Pakistan of being involved in violence and terrorism against India since 1947 and supporting terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir “that continues to the present day”.
Swarup said India had “underlined the importance of bringing to justice all those guilty in Pakistan for the Mumbai terrorist attack of 2008 and Pathankot airbase attack”.
Prime Minister Modi had spoken about Balochistan and PoK in his Independence Day speech because people from these regions sent him messages thanking him for raising the alleged atrocities there at an all parties meeting, Swarup said.
“As to whether this constitutes a policy shift, let me say that government of India has made statements about the situation in Baluchistan in the past as well,” he added.
With inputs from Agencies in Islamabad