Pakistan Says ‘Calling Off Talks is a Setback’

Islamabad, August 19 (QNA) – India calling off foreign secretary level talks is a setback to Pakistani leadership efforts to promote “good, neighbourly relations” with India, Pakistan has said.

India called off foreign secretary-level bilateral talks with Pakistan Monday after Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit met with Hurriyat separatist leader Shabir Shah.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said, “Pakistan’s High Commissioner in India has been informed by the Ministry of External Affairs that the Government of India – taking exception to the High Commissioner’s meetings with Kashmiri leaders – has decided to call off the foreign secretary level talks scheduled for August 25, 2014 in Islamabad.”
Rejecting India’s reservation to Pakistani envoys meeting with Kashmiri leaders, she said it is a longstanding practice that, prior to Pakistan-India talks, meetings with Kashmiri leaders are held to facilitate meaningful discussions on the issue of Kashmir.

“Talks between India and Pakistan should not have been called off,” Shah told India Today news magazine. “What is the harm in meeting the Pakistan High Commissioner? Both the countries should move ahead but Kashmir should not be kept in cold storage.”
India’s Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh Monday told Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit not to go ahead with his meeting with separatists scheduled later in the day. Basit turned down her request.

Singh warned Basit the Indian government would take a dim view of the meeting and told him to choose between meeting separatists and the government. She dismissed his explanation that his meetings were to facilitate the peace process in Kashmir, saying India needed no such assistance.

The proposed foreign secretary level meeting would have been the first official dialogue between India and Pakistan since the beheading of an Indian soldier along the Line of Control (LoC) over a year ago froze relations between the two countries, the India Today report added. (QNA)

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