India’s decision to cancel rare talks with Islamabad was disappointing and “arrogant,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Saturday, after New Delhi accused him of harboring an “evil agenda.”
India pulled the plug on a meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart, set for next week on the sidelines of a major U.N. conference, just one day after saying it would go ahead. The foreign ministry in New Delhi blamed the about-face on recent actions that had revealed Pakistan’s “evil agenda” and the “true face” of Khan, who hit back from Twitter on Saturday.
“Disappointed at the arrogant & negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” he wrote. “However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture.”
New Delhi said it cancelled the talks after the “latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities” and the recent release of a series of Pakistani postage stamps “glorifying a terrorist and terrorism.”
India did not specify which killings it was referring to in its statement, but earlier this week, an Indian border guard in the disputed territory of Kashmir was killed and his body mutilated. Three policemen were then found dead on Friday after being abducted in India-administered Kashmir.
The two countries’ militaries exchanged barbs on Saturday over the killings.
Indian media quoted army chief Bipin Rawat calling for “stern action to avenge the barbarism that terrorists and the Pakistan Army have been carrying out.” In response Pakistan’s military spokesman said his country was “ready for war.”
“We are a nuclear nation and we are ready for war but in the interest of the people of Pakistan and the neighbors and the region we want to walk the path of peace,” Major General Asif Ghafoor told private television channel Dunya News. “The statement from the Indian army chief is irresponsible,” he added.
Pakistan also recently issued postage stamps featuring Burhan Wani, a charismatic Kashmiri commander killed by Indian troops in July 2016, whose death sparked a wave of violent protests in the territory.
India has long accused Pakistan of arming rebel groups in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both.
In a statement from its foreign office, Pakistan said on Friday it had “nothing to do with” the deaths, accusing India of spreading “motivated and malicious propaganda.”
The meeting in New York between Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi—on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly debate—was only confirmed on Thursday. It came after Khan wrote to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi calling for a resumption of talks between the foes. High-level talks between India and Pakistan are rare. Indian media said the meeting would have been the first in nearly three years.