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India uncertain on fate of planned high-level Pakistan meets
Pakistan said late Saturday it could not accept India’s “preconditions” for the talks which had been scheduled for Sunday in New Delhi, effectively cancelling them.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said Saturday that apart from Sunday’s meeting two other high-level meetings of officials had been planned to discus border and ceasefire violations.
Cross-border shelling in Kashmir this month has caused several civilian deaths on both sides.
The minister said the meetings plan had been agreed by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif when they met in the Russian city of Ufa last month.
“We have already described the cancellation of NSAs (national security advisers) meet by Pakistan as unfortunate,” a senior foreign ministry official told AFP on Sunday, referring to an earlier Tweet by the ministry.
“Now, the fate of those other two meetings is also not clear… it will take a few days for some more clarity.”
Swaraj had given Islamabad till Saturday midnight to agree to restrict the NSA talks to “terrorism only” after a row over Pakistan’s plan to meet Kashmiri separatist leaders and its insistence on broadening the scope of the talks.
Swaraj insisted that what Pakistan described as “preconditions” were actually “the agenda for NSAs meet which both leaders agreed to in Ufa”.
In response to Swaraj’s comments, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said “the scheduled NSA-level talks cannot be held on the basis of the preconditions set by India”.
“We have come to the conclusion that the proposed NSA-level talks between the two countries would not serve any purpose, if conducted on the basis of the two conditions laid down by the minister,” it said in a statement.
Last year India cancelled talks with Pakistan because of a meeting between Islamabad and Kashmiri separatist officials, a move that set back already tense relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region since both gained independence in 1947, and it remains a major source of tension.
About a dozen militant groups have been fighting since 1989 for either the independence of the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan.