Days after India’s rejection, Pakistan offers talks on Kashmir again
Pakistani foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry invited his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar on Monday to visit Islamabad for a dialogue on Kashmir, which New Delhi has already rejected outright.
The invitation letter was handed to high commissioner Gautam Bambawale, two days after Sartaj Aziz, the foreign affairs adviser to Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif, said his country has planned to invite the Indian foreign secretary for peace talks on Kashmir.
“The letter highlights the international obligation of both countries, India and Pakistan, to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions,” said a statement from the Pakistani foreign office.
New Delhi rejected the Pakistani talks plan on Saturday, saying a dialogue can be had only on “contemporary and relevant issues in India-Pakistan relations”, especially cross-border terrorism.
Islamabad has been long accused of training and pushing militants into India, and supporting terrorists such as Lashar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, the Pakistan-based lynchpin of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008.
The letter came hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaffirmed his stand on Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) during his 90-minute Independence Day speech.
Modi said last week the time has come to expose Pakistani atrocities in Balochistan and PoK, in a tit-for-tat response to Islamabad’s tirade over protests in Kashmir after the killing of a militant leader a month ago. More than 50 people have died and thousands were wounded in the unrest.
He repeated his tough stand on Pakistan in his August 15 address, expressing his gratitude to the people of Balochistan, Gilgit, and PoK “for the way they wholeheartedly thanked me”.
This was the first time an Indian Prime Minister mentioned the Pakistan-controlled restive areas during his Independence Day speech.
Balochistan chief minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri dismissed Modi’s remarks that the province was suffering from repression and accused India of fomenting trouble there, reports PTI.
He said there was no fight for freedom in Balochistan, and only a few misguided youth were involved in militancy and anti-peace activities in the province.
Ties between India and Pakistan have been on a downswing after the Pathankot airbase attack in January, in which seven soldiers and four Pakistan-based terrorists were killed. Foreign secretaries of the two nations were scheduled to resume talks in mid-January, but the meeting was postponed after the attack.
Hostilities between the neighbours escalated in the month since security forces gunned down Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in Kashmir on July 8, which triggered a wave of protests in the state.
Pakistani flags were hoisted in the Kashmir Valley on Sunday, the neighbouring country’s Independence Day. High commissioner Abdul Basit dedicated the occasion to “Kashmir’s freedom”, deepening tension between the two countries.