In a surprising development, India called off on Friday a meeting scheduled for next week between its foreign minister with the Pakistani counterpart, Hindustan Times reported.
The meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was to take place in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.
The Indian foreign ministry said the talks were called off after the “latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of a series of twenty postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism”. It did not provide further details about the alleged killings.
Reacting to the cancellation of talks, Foreign Minister Qureshi said India had not responded positively to Pakistan’s invitation for dialogue. “It seems that India is already preparing for its elections due in the country next year,” he said. “Pakistan had asked for the talks in the larger interest of the region.”
Qureshi said that it seems that “India has priorities other than dialogue, adding there is a group in the New Delhi that doesn’t want talks to take place.
He went on to say that if India doesn’t want dialogue, then Pakistan also won’t be in a haste either. “Pakistan extended the offer despite possessing evidence of Indian interference in Balochistan.”
Nevertheless, the foreign minister reiterated, dialogue is the only way to come to the resolution of any issue.
The development, following a high-level engagement in nearly three years, came at the request of Prime Minister Imran Khan, and had renewed hopes of de-escalation in the lingering tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
On Thursday, the Indian external affairs ministry confirmed at a news briefing in New Delhi that Indian had accepted the proposal of the Pakistani prime minister for a meeting between the two foreign ministers.
On September 14, Imran wrote a letter to his Indian counterpart offering him an olive branch to resume the dialogue between the two countries on all issues — including Kashmir and terrorism.
Relations between the two countries have been tense for years, with India accusing Pakistan of not doing enough to stop what it alleges cross-border terrorism.
Islamabad, however, always denies the charges and insists that the only way forward is to seek a solution to the problems through dialogue.
The recent geo-strategic environment has also complicated their already troubled relationship. With India’s growing tilt towards the US and Pakistan’s closeness with China, the trust deficit between Islamabad and New Delhi is also growing.
Observers are sceptical if the two countries will be able to resume full spectrum of dialogue given the parliamentary elections in India next year.