Pakistan disappointed at India's cancellation of Sushma-Qureshi meet

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Islamabad : Pakistan on Friday expressed deep disappointment at India's decision to cancel a meeting between Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi that was scheduled to be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session next week.

"The government of Pakistan is deeply disappointed at the announcement made by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi today (Friday) about the cancellation of the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan, which was to be held on the sidelines of UNGA in New York," the Pakistan Foreign Office said in a statement late on Friday night.

"The reasons cited by the Indian side for the decision to cancel the Foreign Ministers' meeting, within 24 hours of its public confirmation, are entirely unconvincing," it said.

"The so-called 'disturbing developments' alluded to in the Indian statement predated the Indian agreement to hold the bilateral meeting in New York."

Blaming Pakistan for the killing of security personnel in Jammu and Kashmir and accusing it of glorifying terrorism, in terms of releasing a postage stamp featuring Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani who was killed by Indian security forces, India on Friday called off talks between the two foreign ministers in New York.

India announced its decision just 24 hours after Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in his media briefing on Thursday that New Delhi has accepted Islamabad's request for a meeting between Sushma Swaraj and Qureshi at the UN.

On Friday, the Indian government said in a strongly-worded statement that since the announcement of the talks on Thursday, two "deeply disturbing" developments had taken place that led to Islamabad's "evil agenda" being exposed.

"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 confirmed that Pakistan will not mend its ways," Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson 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," Raveesh Kumar said.

Earlier in the day, Hizbul Mujahadeen terrorists abducted and gunned down three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir, marking a sharp escalation in militancy in the state which India says is backed by Pakistan.

Earlier this week, the mutilated body of Narendra Singh, a Border Security Force (BSF) Head Constable, was found after Pakistani forces had resorted to unprovoked firing in Ramgarh sector of Jammu.

Kumar said the that BSF has "strongly taken up the matter with their counterpart on the Pakistani side".

In this background, Kumar said on Friday that "conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless".

"In view of the changed situation, there will be no meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in New York," he said.

In its statement, the Pakistan Foreign Office did not allude to the killing of the police officers in Jammu and Kashmir but said that the "alleged" killing of the 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," the Pakistan Foreign Office statement said.

According to the statement, Pakistan Rangers also extended help in efforts to locate the soldier's body.

Stating that these facts were known to the Indian authorities, it stated: "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."

As for the Burhan Wani postage stamp mentioned, the statement said that it was issued before the July 25 general elections in Pakistan "as a result of which the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office".

The Pakistan Foreign Office statement termed as "most unfortunate" India's reference about Imran Khan.

"We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication," it said.

It said Pakistan believed that by its "ill-considered cancellation" of the meeting, New Delhi "has 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".

"For its part, Pakistan will persist with its quest for peace and development," the statement said.

Qureshi also termed as "unfortunate" India's cancellation of talks with Islamabad in New York next week.

"We had already told India that if they take one step towards us, we will take two. However, it seems that they faltered after taking just one step," Qureshi told Dawn online.