–New Delhi cites Pakistan’s ‘unclean intentions’ as reason for calling off FMs’ meeting on sidelines of UNGA
–FO says reasons cited by India ‘extremely unconvincing’, says alleged killing of BSF soldier occurred two days before New Delhi gave its consent for FMs’ meeting
–PM Imran Khan calls New Delhi’s response ‘arrogant and negative’, says ‘all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture’
–FM Qureshi says ‘deeply saddened’ by India’s backtracking on meeting
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has expressed its “deep disappointment” after New Delhi announced to cancel the meeting of foreign ministers of India and Pakistan — which was to be held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York — and blamed India for “once again wasting an opportunity to change the dynamics of the bilateral relationship”.
On Friday, India called off the meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers just a day after confirming the development.
Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar cited “unclean intentions” on Pakistan’s side.
“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 Imran Khan has been revealed to the world in his first few months in office,” he said. “Any conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless.”
‘REASONS ENTIRELY UNCONVINCING’:
Commenting on India’s volte-face, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a statement on Friday night that the reasons cited by the Indian side for the decision to cancel the foreign ministers’ meeting are entirely unconvincing.
“The so-called ‘disturbing developments’ alluded to in the Indian statement predated the Indian agreement to hold the bilateral meeting in New York,” the FO said.
Clarifying its position on the matter, the FO said that the alleged killing of an Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldier took place two days prior to the Indian announcement of its agreement to hold the bilateral meeting.
“When the allegations of Pakistan’s involvement first appeared, the Pakistan Rangers clearly conveyed to 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. Yet, this motivated and malicious propaganda continued.
“Pakistan takes this opportunity to categorically reject these allegations once again. Our authorities would be prepared to conduct a joint investigation to establish the truth,” read the Foreign Office statement.
The other reason cited by the Indian ministry referred to the issuance of 20 special postage stamps by Pakistan Post on July 24, highlighting the gross violation of human rights by Indian forces in held Kashmir.
Islamabad clarified that the postage stamps mentioned in the Indian statement were issued before the July 25 elections, following which Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office.
“The stamps highlight the gross and systematic human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir, which were extensively documented also in a comprehensive report issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as late as June 2018.
“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 Foreign Office maintained.
‘UNFORTUNATE REFERENCE TO PERSON OF PM’:
Most unfortunate is the reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
The Foreign Office also expressed disappointment over the “reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan”, and termed it “unfortunate”.
“We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication,” read the statement.
Putting the record straight, the FO mentioned that PM 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. In the same spirit, PM Khan in his reply letter endorsed PM Modi’s call for ‘constructive engagement’ and proposed the meeting of the two foreign ministers in New York to discuss a way forward on bilateral and SAARC-related matters,” it clarified.
Terming it an “ill-considered cancellation of the meeting”, the FO accused India of “once again wasting a serious opportunity to change the dynamics of the bilateral relationship and put the region on the path of peace and development”.
“Pakistan has always desired peaceful and good-neighbourly relations with India, on the basis of sovereign equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit. In our view, dialogue and diplomacy are the only constructive way forward for the two countries to address mutual concerns, rebuild trust, resolve longstanding disputes, and establish durable peace in South Asia.
“For its part, Pakistan will persist with its quest for peace and development. But, as we have consistently emphasised, our approach will continue to be guided by the aforementioned principles and the dictates of national dignity,” read the Foreign Office statement.
‘ARROGANT AND NEGATIVE’:
Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter on Saturday to respond to India’s cancellation of the meeting, calling New Delhi’s response “arrogant and negative”.
“Disappointed at the arrogant and negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” said PM Khan. “However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture.”
Separately, Foreign Minister Qureshi said he was “deeply saddened” by how New Delhi first accepted and later backtracked from a meeting between him and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj.
Speaking to reporters at Islamabad airport before departing on a visit to the United States to attend the UNGA session, the minister said it was their understanding that it would be beneficial for the entire region if countries sat down for dialogue and find solutions to the outstanding issues.
“I was deeply saddened by how India first accepted our goodwill gesture and then backtracked from it,” he said.
Qureshi said the Indian government had to “look for reasons” to justify cancelling the meeting after initially agreeing to it, adding that New Delhi had used the issue of stamps of Kashmiri freedom fighters as an “excuse”.
He said it was inappropriate on India’s part to state a development from July (the issuance of stamps) as the reason to cancel the meeting that was due to take place in September.
“It was an opportunity [for progress in bilateral ties], which I think India’s domestic circumstances did not allow to materialise,” the foreign minister said.
“There is no precedent of how diplomatic norms were trampled” by India in the cancellation of the meeting, he added.