India on Friday cancelled rare talks 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, drawing an indignant response from Islamabad.
The Indian foreign ministry blamed the about-face on 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.” It alleged that the recent actions had revealed Pakistan’s “evil agenda” and the “true face” of the country’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Pakistan said it was “deeply disappointed” with the cancellation, calling the references to Khan “against all norms of civilized discourse and diplomatic communication.”
India did not specify which killings it was referring to, but earlier this week, an Indian border guard in the disputed territory of Kashmir was killed and his body mutilated. And on Friday, three policemen were found dead after being abducted in India-administered Kashmir.
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.
Pakistan recently issued postage stamps of Burhan Wani, a charismatic Kashmiri rebel commander killed by Indian troops in July 2016, whose death sparked a wave of violent protests in the territory.
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.” It described the reasons given by India for its “ill-considered” cancellation of the meeting as “entirely unconvincing.”
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 rival countries.
High-level talks between India and Pakistan are rare. Indian media described the slated meeting as the first in nearly three years.
Friday’s statement from New Delhi said the original decision to hold the meeting “was in response to the spirit reflected in the letters from the new Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Pakistan.” Khan’s letter “had spoken of… bringing a positive change and mutual desire for peace as also readiness to discuss terrorism,” it added. “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,” it said. “Any conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless.”
In its response, Pakistan said India had “once again wasted a serious opportunity to change the dynamics of the bilateral relationship and put the region on the path of peace and development.”
Qureshi told Pakistan’s ARY TV channel that he was “surprised and disappointed.”
“We had given a positive signal and India too had hinted about negotiations,” he said. “India has once again shown that it cares more about its own politics than regional peace and stability,” he added. Asked if Pakistan will approach India again for negotiations, he said: “No, we wanted negotiations in a dignified way.”