New Delhi: A day after agreeing that external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj would meet Pakistan’s new foreign minister on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly in New York next week, India cancelled the meeting claiming that the killing of three Jammu and Kashmir policemen and the release of stamps commemorating Burhan Wani showed the “true face” of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“In view of the changed situation, there will be no meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in New York,” said the MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on Friday.
He claimed that two major incidents made India change its mind within 24 hours.
“Since yesterday’s announcement of a meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in New York later this month, two deeply disturbing developments have taken place. The latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of a series of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism confirm that Pakistan will not mend its ways,” he said.
The Indian spokesperson said that India’s approval for the meeting “was in response to the spirit reflected in the letters from the new prime minister and foreign minister of Pakistan”.
He added that the letter from Imran Khan had spoken of “bringing a positive change and mutual desire for peace as also readiness to discuss terrorism”.
However, following the “two disturbing developments”, India used unusually harsh words and personally accused the Pakistan prime minster of hypocrisy.
“Now, it is obvious that behind Pakistan’s proposal for talks to make a fresh beginning, the evil agenda of Pakistan stands exposed and the true face of the new prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has been revealed to the world in his first few months in office. Any conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless,” said Kumar. Imran Khan took over as Pakistan prime minister after a swearing-in ceremony on August 18.
In its first official response, Pakistan information minister Fawad Chaudhry lashed out at India, stating that he had “never seen such a puerile statement given by any Foreign Office”.
It seems that the Indian govt is divided on the issue of negotiations — have never seen such a puerile statement given by any Foreign Office. The world is watching: Pakistan stands for peace while Indian policies are being guided by extremist ideologies
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) September 21, 2018
Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Dawn News TV that India had faltered at the first step. “We had already told India that if they take one step towards us, we will take two. However, it seems that they faltered after taking just one step.”
He said that the world should see that “Pakistan has held a positive outlook towards the situation while India’s attitude has not been so forthcoming”.
Pakistan President Arif Alvi stated that Khan’s “outstanding peace overture” had been “negated” by India “in their usual belligerent manner”.
Sad to see India backing off from FM level talks. Mutual reservations could have been placed on the table. Kashmiris face only disappointment on #InternationalDayOfPeace PM @ImranKhanPTI‘s outstanding peace overture negated in their usual belligerant manner
— Dr. Arif Alvi (@ArifAlvi) September 21, 2018
Late Friday night, Pakistan government said that it was “deeply disappointed” with the cancelation of the meeting of the foreign ministers.
“Most unfortunate is the reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication,” said the statement issued by the Pakistan foreign ministry.
India had announced on Thursday that New Delhi had accepted the proposal of the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for a meeting between Sushma Swaraj and S.M. Qureshi in New York this month.
“I can confirm that on the request of the Pakistani side a meeting between external affairs minister and Pakistan foreign minister will take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly at a mutually convenient date and time,” Raveesh Kumar had said at the weekly briefing.
The US state department stated that it was “terrific news for the Indians and Pakistanis to be able to sit down and have a conversation together”.
Sushma Swaraj had earlier said in May that the “talks and terror” cannot go together, but “talks on terror” could still take place with Pakistan.
In his letter, Imran Khan mentioned Kashmir, but also said that Pakistan “remains ready to discuss terrorism”.
The announcement for the meeting was made on Thursday by India even after details were known about the mutilation of body of a Border Security Force personnel. The opposition Congress had assailed the government on Thursday over the killing of the BSF personnel.
The Pakistan foreign ministry said that the reasons cited by India were “entirely unconvincing” as the developments “alluded to in the Indian statement predated the Indian agreement to hold the bilateral meeting in New York”.
While the Indian statement did not mention the specific incident of killing of security personnel, Pakistan’s response only referred to the killing of the BSF member.
“When the allegations of Pakistan’s involvement first appeared, the Pakistan Rangers clearly conveyed to the BSF through official channels that Pakistan had nothing to do with it. Pakistan Rangers also extended help in efforts to locate the soldier’s body. These facts were known to the Indian authorities and a part of the Indian media also reported that Pakistan had refuted its involvement,” said the Pakistani foreign ministry, adding that it was ready for a joint probe.
Sources, however, confirmed to The Wire the reference to the killing of security personnel in the Indian statement was not about the BSF personnel, but related to theabduction and shooting of three policemen in Shopian on Friday. There has been an increase in terror attacks targeting policemen and their families in Kashmir in recent months.
Indian and Pakistani media reports stated that Pakistan Post had issued stamps on slain Hizbul Mujahidden terrorist Burhan Wani on July 24. Incidentally, Pakistan went to polls on July 25 under a caretaker government. After winning the elections, Imran Khan was sworn in mid August.
Pakistan’s official statement also mentions that the release of the stamps took place before the elections.
“Secondly, the postage stamps mentioned in the Indian statement were issued before the 25 July 2018 elections, as a result of which the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office,” it said.
However, sources told The Wire that media reports about the release of the stamps came out only on Thursday. They insisted that it was only after it was confirmed that the stamps had actually been released by a Pakistani state institution that the development could be taken into cognisance. “It was perhaps designed earlier, but the release only took place now,” said sources.
Official sources stated that the highly charged language used in the MEA statement reflected the Indian assessment that Imran Khan was “personally behind this mess”. Khan has been conciliatory in his public language towards India after taking over as prime minister, but government sources pointed to his verbal attacks on India during the election campaign.
They acknowledged that the strong words meant that there was no scope of discussions between India and Pakistan in the near future. “The door has been closed on talks for the time being,” sources said.
Note: This article was updated on September 22 to include Pakistan’s response to India’s cancelation of the meeting.