Major blow to peace efforts: India cancels FM-level talks with Pakistan

TEHRAN, Sep. 23 (MNA) – The recent peace overtures between New Delhi and Islamabad, since the formation of new Pakistani government led by Imran Khan, had briefly rekindled hopes of peace and reconciliation between the two estranged neighbors. But the thaw didn’t last too long. The hopes have been dashed again.

In the first major blow to the efforts made by leaders in the two countries to bury the hatchet and open a new chapter in their bilateral relations, New Delhi on Friday called off a much-anticipated meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), a day after confirming the meeting.

In a tweet, the spokesperson at India’s Ministry of External Affairs Raveesh Kumar cited “unclean intentions” on Pakistan’s side for cancellation of talks.

“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 Imran Khan has been revealed to the world in his first few months in office,” he said, using very strong words. “Any conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless.”

The spokesperson referred to the abduction and killing of policemen in Kashmir by “Pakistani entities” and Islamabad’s decision to release stamps allegedly “glorifying terrorists” as the reasons behind the annulment of talks.

Pakistan’s postal department had issued 20 special postage stamps on July 24, according to The Nation, carrying photos of Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri militant who was killed by Indian forces in Kashmir in 2017.

Since Khan assumed power in Islamabad, after sweeping general elections, the two countries had shown inclination to work together for betterment of bilateral ties and regional peace. In his victory speech, Khan asserted that he would take two steps if India took one.

ndian Prime Minister Narendra Modi , who didn’t share particularly warm relationship with Khan’s predecessor Nawaz Sharif, had congratulated him on his election.

Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria, less than a fortnight ago, said Khan's government had opened a political window and India was “filled with cautious hope”.  Pakistan’s foreign ministry, reacting to Bisara’s statement, said it wanted to “utilize the same window and see how we can move forward.” Things were sailing smoothly.

Last week, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it was ready for talks with India and was awaiting an official response from New Delhi on how to move forward on the issue. “We are ready for talks with India. We have also conveyed our position to the international community. It remains for India to respond,” spokesman Dr. Mohammad Faisal said in Islamabad. “We are also saying since long that dialogue is the only way forward to settle all outstanding issues between Pakistan and India.”

But, things seem to have come back to square one with the cancellation of talks and strongly-worded statement issued by India’s foreign ministry, which has not gone down well with Islamabad. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi termed the development “unfortunate”. “We had already told India that if they take one step towards us, we will take two. However, it seems that they faltered after taking just one step.”

In an interview with DawnNewsTv, Qureshi said the world should see that “Pakistan has held a positive outlook towards the situation while India's attitude has not been so forthcoming”. When asked if Pakistan would still continue to extend an olive branch to India, Qureshi said Pakistan is in favor of dialogue, “but in a dignified manner.”

Pakistan’s newly-elected president Arif Alvi also expressed disappointment over the development, saying PM Khan’s peace overtures were annulled by India in their “usual belligerent manner”.

“Sad to see India backing off from FM level talks. Mutual reservations could have been placed on the table. Kashmiris face only disappointment on International Day of Peace. PM Imran Khan’s outstanding peace overture negated in their usual belligerent manner,” President Alvi tweeted.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman took to Twitter to denounce Indian government’s decision. “Shame that on #InternationalPeaceDay India has refused to talk peace with Pakistan in even a routine manner at the @UN on the sidelines of the General Assembly.”

Pakistan’s Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry, was quoted saying by GeoTV, that the whole world was watching and seeing what India did. “This shows that Pakistan stands for peace but there is a section of the Indian society that does not want this and that section holds a lot of influence there.”

On Thursday, Raveesh Kumar had confirmed the meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of the UNGA. “I can confirm that on the request of the Pakistani side, a meeting between the external affairs minister and the Pakistani foreign minister will take place on the sidelines of the UNGA at a mutually convenient date and time,” Kumar had stated.

But, in the last 48 hours, friendship turned into animosity again, as Indian media reported the issue of Pakistan releasing stamps in the name of Wani and his associates, which according to Pakistani media had been released before Khan was elected as the new premier.

MNA/TT

News Code 137995

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