India calls off foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan, says no useful purpose will be served

Talk to us or separatists, India tells Pak

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After inviting Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif to his oath-taking ceremony and taking a sharp departure by not mentioning Pakistan in his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday decided to act tough and called off secretary-level talks with Islamabad, scheduled for August 25.

India took umbrage at Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit inviting Kashmiri separatist leaders for consultations, ahead of the foreign secretary-level talks, despite forewarnings.

Foreign secretary Sujatha Singh sent a strong message to Pakistan, saying it can either talk to the Indian government or to separatists and that its envoy talking to separatists amounts to "interference" in India's internal affairs.

India has never frowned over meetings by visiting Pakistan functionaries with the separatist leaders in Delhi before and hence Pakistan high commission officials were stunned.

Security czars here have been rethinking the timing of foreign secretary Sujatha Singh's visit in the wake of the deteriorating political situation in Pakistan. The meeting between separatists and Pakistan high commissioner, ignoring warnings by the ministry of external affairs, came in handy.

On Monday afternoon, when separatist leader Shabir Ahmed Shah was inside the Pakistan high commission, foreign secretary Sujatha Singh rang up Basit as well as her Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry in Islamabad to register her protest.

She conveyed she was cancelling her visit to Islamabad as "no useful purpose will be served" in view of the Pakistan envoy's "unexpectable" conduct, undermining the constructive diplomatic atmosphere created by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the time of his swearing-in.

Sources said the government also took into account a spurt in ceasefire violations along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir while calling off talks.

Meanwhile, a former Kashmir interlocutor Professor Radhha Kumar described Hurriyat meetings with Pakistani officials a 'wastage of time'. She said Pakistan should allow PoK leaders to meet Indian delegations. "This two way traffic will certainly prove effective and will lead to some results as far as Kashmir issue is concerned," she said.

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