External Affairs

Ahead of Sartaj Aziz Visit, India Says Talks and Terror Can’t Go Together

Vikas Swarup. Credit: PTI

MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: A week before Pakistan prime minister’s foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz is scheduled to arrive in Amritsar, the Indian government reiterated that any dialogue could be held only in an environment free from terror. In the same breath, New Delhi accused the Pakistan army of tacitly supporting the killing of three Indian soldiers by terrorists.

Aziz is scheduled to attend the Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference in Amritsar on December 3 and 4, which will be the first high level visit since the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj travelled to Pakistan last year for the same meeting.

Swaraj’s trip had resulted in a decision to commence a re-packaged Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue, but it was derailed first by the attack on the Indian air force base in Pathankot, then by the worsening of the security situation in Kashmir and then due to the death of several Indian soldiers at the brigade headquarters in Uri.

“Our position has been very, very clear. We are for dialogue with Pakistan, but talks and terror cannot go together. It is incumbent upon Pakistan to create the necessary environment for dialogue to happen,” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup on a query if there was a possibility of an opening for talks at the forthcoming multilateral summit.

He refused to answer queries on whether there was likelihood of any bilateral meetings between Indian and Pakistani ministers, and noted that the schedule was still very fluid.

Incidentally, Swaraj will not be attending the summit due to her dialysis treatment, but will be represented by a minister of state. The summit will be jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Meanwhile, Swarup also lambasted Pakistan for continuing violations of ceasefire at the Line of Control.

“The government of India stated that despite calls for restraint, Pakistan forces committed 27 ceasefire violations between 16 and 21 November 2016, by resorting to calibre escalation and employing artillery and 120 millimetre heavy mortars against Indian posts. These violent acts constitute a clear violation of the ceasefire agreement of 2003,” he said, referring to the demarche given to the Pakistan deputy high commissioner on Wednesday.

Swarup also specifically accused Pakistan of still supporting terror groups at the border during infiltration.

“The tacit support of the Pakistan army to armed terrorists that came from close to Pakistan army posts on November 22, 2016, targeting an Indian patrol near the Line of Control in Machhal sector opposite Pakistan’s Kel sector, and killing three Indian soldiers, including inhuman mutilation of the body of one of them,” he said.

Indian government had claimed to have conducted surgical strikes by crossing the LoC to hit at terror launchpads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Pakistan had, however, denied that Indian troops had crossed the LoC and instead claimed that casualties on the Pakistan side were due to heavy cross-border firing.

On being asked about Pakistan reportedly establishing a new group to “expose” Indian “atrocities”, Swarup said, “Pakistan’s efforts have not gathered any traction on the international stage. Pakistan would be well advised to focus its energies on stemming the rot of terrorism instead of expending its breath in making baseless allegations.”

He noted that it would be better for Pakistan government to “woo Pakistanis to end his government’s policy of state sponsorship of terrorism,” rather than conduct an “outreach” effort towards the Indians who are disenchanted with the Modi government.