India has called off high-level talks with its neighbour Pakistan after the latter’s envoy to New Delhi held a meeting with Kashmiri pro-independence leaders, India’s foreign ministry has said.
The foreign secretary-level talks were due to be held in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on August 25, the first after Narendra Modi became prime minister.
However the Indian foreign secretary, Sujatha Singh, said that a meeting between Pakistan’s high commissioner in Delhi, Abdul Basit, and leaders from India-administered Kashmir “undermines constructive diplomatic engagement”.
“Under the present circumstances, it is felt that no useful purpose will be served by the Indian foreign secretary going to Islamabad next week. Therefore, the visit stands cancelled,” Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for the foreign ministry, said in a statement on Monday.
“The only path available to Pakistan is to resolve outstanding issues through a peaceful bilateral dialogue within the framework and principles of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration,” it said.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said India cancelled the scheduled talks “on the pretext of the high commissioner’s meetings with Kashmiri leadership”.
“Meetings with Kashmiri leaders, before Pakistan-India talks, is a long standing practice to facilitate the resolution of Kashmir dispute,” a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry said.
Shabir Shah, a senior pro-Independence leader from the disputed Kashmir region who met the Pakistani envoy, termed New Delhi’s decision “unfortunate”.
“The Government of India has taken a wrong decision. It’s unfortunate. Until yesterday I felt Modi was serious in resolving the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan, but now everything has ended abruptly,” he told Al Jazeera.
India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the divided territory that is claimed by both.