A DAY after New Delhi called off the bilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday expressed disappointment at the “arrogant” and “negative” response of the Indian government to his call for resumption of the “peace dialogue”. While he did not take names, Khan said he has seen “small men occupying big offices”, who don’t have “the vision” to see the big picture. “Disappointed at the arrogant & negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue. However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture,” Khan tweeted.
While India did not issue an official response, sources told The Sunday Express that it was “unbecoming” of a Prime Minister to use such language.
However, the Ministry of External Affairs’ statement too had targeted Khan, saying that the “true face” of the new Prime Minister of Pakistan had been revealed to the world in his “first few months in office”. Khan assumed office on August 18, just over a month ago.
Criticising the Indian statement, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal tweeted: “IFS (Indian Foreign Service) does not draft such election oriented statements or take such hasty flip-flop decisions. Seems handiwork of ‘muscular’ thinking. More ‘brawn’ than ‘brain’.”
Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted: “We reject war mongering by ruling elite of India. Everyone knows Indian Govt strategy is to use hate mongering against Pak, basically to bail PM Modi from call for resignation post-French jets Rafale deal and divert attention of Indian public from this mega corruption scandal.”
Late on Friday night, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply disappointed”. “Most unfortunate is the reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication,” its foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement.
The reasons cited by the Indian side for cancelling the foreign ministers’ meeting, within 24 hours of its public confirmation, were “entirely unconvincing”, the statement said. It added that the “disturbing developments” alluded to in the Indian statement predated the Indian agreement to hold the bilateral meeting in New York.
The Pakistan foreign ministry’s statement said that the killing of the BSF soldier took place two days before India’s announcement of its agreement to hold the bilateral meeting.
However, Indian government sources said the killing of three J&K policemen on Friday morning was the provocation, which led to the cancellation of talks. Rejecting the allegations of involvement, Pakistan said its authorities would be prepared to conduct a “joint investigation” to establish the truth.
Islamabad also pointed out that one of the reasons cited by New Delhi for cancelling the talks — the release of postage stamps on Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani — took place almost two months ago. It said that the stamps were released in mid-July, weeks before Khan won the July 25 elections.
“We believe by its ill-considered cancellation of the meeting, India 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,” it said.
The meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was to take place in New York around September 26-27. The meeting, which now stands cancelled, would have taken place almost three years after the bilateral meeting between the foreign ministers in Islamabad in December 2015, which was followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden visit to Lahore.
An informal meeting of SAARC foreign ministers is scheduled to take place in New York, on the sidelines of the UNGA session, around September 26-27. Swaraj and Qureshi will head the delegations of their respective countries to the UNGA.
Before leaving for New York, Qureshi said on Saturday that he would raise the issue of Kashmir at the UNGA. Sources in New Delhi said Swaraj would raise the issue of cross-border terrorism.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Army’s chief spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said India was trying to divert attention from its domestic problem by calling off talks with Islamabad and resorting to baseless propaganda, Pakistani newspaper The News reported.
“Pakistan Army is a professional institution. It is part of the Army’s professional code of conduct. No Pakistani troop was involved in mutilation of Indian soldier,” Ghafoor told a TV channel. “We need to maintain peace in the region and it should not be misconstrued as our weakness. India should not resort to war mongering,” he said.