India ‘Willing’ To Hold Talks With Pakistan On Kashmir

ISLAMABAD: Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale on Wednesday submitted Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar's reply to an earlier Pakistan invitation for dialogue, expressing his country's 'willingness' for talks with Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute, sources in the Foreign Office told DawNews on Wednesday.

However, India also pushed for talks on "certain other issues", they added.

Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry had on Monday invited his Indian counterpart to Pakistan for dialogue on the Kashmir dispute in a letter that "highlighted the international obligations of Pakistan and India with regards to resolving the Kashmir dispute in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions".

Sources told DawnNews the Foreign Office is now preparing a response to India's reply keeping in mind Pakistan's historical stance on certain issues, as well as the ongoing situation in Kashmir.

'Cross-border terrorism'

Indian foreign ministry sources on Wednesday told Reuters talks should focus on the situation in Kashmir, adding that India is willing to send Jaishankar to Pakistan for talks focused on fighting cross-border terrorism.

The Indian sources made it clear, however, that India "rejects in their entirety the self-serving allegations regarding the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India".

The move comes as relations between Pakistan and India remain strained days after prime ministers of both countries made controversial statements regarding Kashmir on Aug 14 and 15.

Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday told a rally in India-held Kashmir that “going to Pakistan is the same as going to hell”.

Parrikar went on to say that Indian troops had “sent back five terrorists yesterday”, referring to the gunmen who were reportedly killed while attempting a cross-border incursion on Monday.

On Aug 14, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan's High Commissioner to New Delhi Abdul Basit dedicated Independence Day to the freedom of Kashmiris, while both neighbours traded allegations of 'unprovoked' cross-border firing along the working boundary.

Tensions between Pakistan and India have been running high since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani sparked anti-government protests in India-held Kashmir, with over 60 people dead in clashes between protesters and Indian authorities.

Last week, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had announced Pakistan was ready for dialogue with India on Kashmir, in response to which India listed issues that must be addressed before any progress is possible.

Indian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that before the start of dialogue Pakistan must address "incitement to violence and terrorism across the border, parading of internationally recognised terrorists like Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin, and sincere follow up on the Mumbai attack trial and the Pathankot attack investigation".

India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also responded saying: “Unlike in the past we cannot agree that dialogue with sponsor and supporters of terrorism should carry on without being linked to action in that regard.” She was obliquely referring to Pakistan.

Earlier in August, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh also traded barbs at the South Asian Association for Regional Coop­eration (Saarc) Interior Minis­ters’ meeting in Islamabad.

Nisar issued a rejoinder to Rajnath when the Indian minister indirectly accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism, terming the use of "torture against innocent children and violence against civilians" as terrorism.

The interior minister stressed the need to "take time out to reflect and sit together to try and work out the problems and reservations that we might harbour towards each other" instead of engaging in blame games and taking swipes at each other.

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