Pak President says India running away from talks
Mamnoon Hussain’s remark draws sharp reaction from New Delhi
NEW DELHI: Pakistani president Mamnoon Hussain said on Wednesday that foreign secretary-level talks with India remained suspended as the neighbour was “running away” from dialogue. The remark drew a sharp response from New Delhi that India had never shied away from talks and was willing to discuss all issues in an atmosphere free from terrorism and violence.
Hussain’s statement made at a joint session of parliament assumes significance as the president’s address to lawmakers generally sets the government’s policy parameters. Hussain also raked up the Kashmir issue, terming it the unfinished agenda of Partition.
“Despite Pakistan’s efforts for resumption of talks (with India) and its offer of a joint probe in the Pathankot attack, the foreign secretary-level talks are still suspended. Pakistan is concerned about it,” he said. Hussain said Pakistan wanted peaceful ties with all neighbours by addressing disputes through talks and accused India of “running away from talks with Pakistan”.
The development marked another low in efforts between the neighbours to get their fragile peace process back on track after the New Year attack on the Pathankot airbase threw it in limbo. Hussain’s speech came days after prime ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif had a telephonic conversation before the latter’s open-heart surgery in London on May 30.
“We have never shied away from talks. We are prepared to discuss all issues with Pakistan in an atmosphere free of terror and violence,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told Hindustan Times.
Hussain’s statement came ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Tashkent on June 23 and 24 where Modi is expected to meet Sharif, though there is no confirmation of the meeting from either side. India and Pakistan are set to become new members of the grouping.
Pakistani high commissioner Abdul Basit said in April that talks between the neighbours were suspended and the Indian foreign office reacted to it by saying both sides were in touch to hold them.
Though it was not a meeting to announce a timeline for the talks, the two foreign secretaries met in Delhi in the same month and agreed to remain in touch.
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