Barely 24 hours after India agreed to talks with Pakistan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week, the government reversed its position, triggering a sharp reaction from Islamabad, which called the decision “ill-considered” and wastage of a “serious opportunity”.
A statement released on Friday by the Indian foreign ministry said the cancellation of talks followed 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”.
Pakistan recently issued postage stamps of Burhan Wani, a young Kashmiri rebel commander killed by Indian troops in July 2016, whose death sparked a wave of violent protests in India-administered Kashmir.
“It is obvious that behind Pakistan’s proposal for talks to make a fresh beginning, evil agenda of Pakistan stands exposed and the true face of [the] new Prime Minister of Pakistan has been revealed to [the] world in his first few months in the office,” the statement said.
While the Indian foreign ministry’s statement did not specify which killings it was referring to, a border guard in India-administered Kashmir was killed earlier this week, with New Delhi accusing Pakistani forces of mutilating his corpse.
Manoj Joshi, senior analyst at Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, said India should have factored in Pakistan’s frequent “provocations” before it agreed to resume talks.
“Now with the back-tracking, it seems New Delhi did not think through its options rigourously. There is a history of such provocations, whenever India and Pakistan announce or sit down to talk. So they should have been prepared for this,” Joshi told Al Jazeera.
Pakistan said it was “deeply disappointed” by India’s decision to cancel the UNGA talks, and said the reasons cited by India were “entirely unconvincing”.
Rejecting allegations of killing and mutilating an Indian border guard, a statement issued by Pakistan’s foreign ministry on Friday evening called it a “motivated and malicious propaganda”.
Defending the release of postage stamps in the memory of Wani, Islamabad said, “By falsely raising the canard of “terrorism”, India can neither hide its unspeakable crimes against the Kashmiri people nor can it delegitimise their indigenous struggle for their inalienable right to self-determination.”
The Pakistani foreign ministry statement also reacted strongly to India’s “unfortunate” references of its newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication,” the statement said.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan had, in his first public comments after his electoral success, outlined a forward-looking vision of Pakistan-India relations. He had clearly stated that if India took one step forward, Pakistan would take two,” it added.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi blamed India’s internal politics for the decision.
“Some elements don’t want resumption of talks between India and Pakistan. The elections in India are near and it appears that internal politics have influenced the government,” he told the local Samaa TV channel.
An Indian general election is due by May.
The cancellation of talks, the first planned high-level meeting between India and Pakistan since 2015, also came hours after three policemen were killed by rebels in Kashmir’s Shopian region early on Friday.
India has long accused Pakistan of arming rebel groups in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both.
The two countries have fought three wars over the territory so far.
India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which is gearing up for elections early next year, has long advocated a tough stance towards Pakistan.
India insists Pakistan act against anti-India rebel groups that operate from its soil before it can resume peace talks to resolve long-standing differences over Kashmir and other disputes.
Pakistan denies aiding and abetting attacks in India and says it is fighting armed groups for its own security.
“Prospects for India-Pakistan ties are not particularly good. We have a government in Islamabad which has already lost ground to the military. In India, there is a government which finds it electorally useful to keep on attacking Pakistan on the issue of terrorism,” said Joshi.
Zeenat Saberin contributed to this report from New Delhi