India calls off Sushma Swaraj-Shah Mahmood Qureshi meet in New York

New Delhi, Sep 22: Reacting sharply to the gruesome killing of three policemen and a BSF jawan in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-backed terrorists and the release of a postage stamp glorifying slain terrorist Burhan Wani, India on Friday called off the scheduled bilateral meeting between Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi that was to take place in New York later this month, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Stating that Islamabad “will not mend its ways” and that any “conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless”, India also blasted Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan, saying his “true face has been revealed”.

India charged that behind Pakistan’s proposal for talks “to make a fresh beginning” lay their “evil agenda”.

This high-pitched, belligerent rhetoric comes just a day after New Delhi on Thursday agreed to the Pakistan PM’s request for the meeting. Hours after India scrapped the scheduled talks, Pakistan’s in-formation and broadcasting minister Chau-dhry Fawad Hussain termed the MEA’s statement as “pue-rile” while alleging that New Delhi stood for “extremist ideologies” whi-le Islamabad stood for “peace”.

In a tweet, Mr Hussain said, “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.”

Friday’s developments mark the first severe setback to Indo-Pak ties under the new Imran Khan-led Pakistan government and have dashed what seemed like a steady move on both sides to inch towards talks.

The stage is now set for another Indo-Pak confrontation on the Kashmir issue at the UNGA in a few days. India calling off the scheduled bilateral meeting will also once again open the door to allegations of a flip-flop by New Delhi regarding its Pakistan policy although the MEA said the meeting had been called off due to the “changed situation”.

With India facing general elections in less than a year, New Delhi’s decision to call off the talks is being seen as the government buckling under mounting pressure. There was criticism of the government’s nod to talks on Thursday as Pakistan has taken no concrete action to crack down on terrorists operating from its soil or territory controlled by it. Thursday’s decision had been announced despite a BSF jawan being killed by Pakistani troops.

In a scathing indictment of Pakistan on Friday, the MEA in New Delhi said, “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.”

The MEA further said, “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.”

There is now some uncertainty about the scheduled Saarc foreign ministers’ meet in New Yor in which both Ms Swaraj and Mr Qureshi are to participate in.

While New Delhi said the decision on Friday came as a reaction to the issuing of postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying terrorists as well as the killing of Indian security personnel, there were news reports that the 20 postage stamps, which carry captions such as “Burhan Wani (1994-2016) freedom icon”, were released in Karachi on July 24, allegedly to highlight the “plight of people living in Kashmir”.

The MEA, however, said the controversial stamps were issued by Pakistan “recently”.

Justifying Thursday’s decision for a bilateral meeting between the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers, MEA said, “The decision to agree to Pakistan’s proposal for a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries in New York later this month was in response to the spirit reflected in the letters from the new Prime Minister and foreign minister of Pakistan. The letter from the Prime Minister of Pakistan had spoken of, inter alia bringing a positive change and mutual desire for peace as also readiness to discuss terrorism.”

On Thursday, the MEA spokesperson had said, “I can confirm that on the request of the Pakistani side a meeting between external affairs minister and Pakistani foreign minister will take place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at a mutually convenient date and time.”(AA)