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India denies messaging Pakistan for talks, accuses Islamabad of ‘hate speech’

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday denied messaging Pakistan for talks and instead accused its neighbor of using “hate speech” against it.

The latest rise in tensions between the two countries came after the Pakistani prime minister’s special assistant on national security said New Delhi had reached out to his government to open dialogue.

Ties between Pakistan and India have been particularly strained since August last year when New Delhi revoked the special autonomy of the disputed Kashmir region it governs. The Muslim-majority territory has been the site of decades of hostility between nuclear arch-rivals India and Pakistan, who both claim the region in full but rule in part.

In an interview with Indian journalist Karan Thapar, aired on Tuesday, the Pakistani premier’s aide, Dr. Moeed Yusuf, claimed that in the past year his government had received messages from New Delhi about a desire for conversation.

“As regards the purported message let me make it clear that no such message was sent from our side,” India’s ministry of external affairs spokesman, Anurag Srivastava, told a press briefing on Thursday.

“The Pakistani leadership continues to indulge in inappropriate, provocative, and hate speech against India. Such support to terrorism against India and use of derogatory and abusive language are not conducive to normal neighborly relations,” he said.

In Tuesday’s interview, Yusuf outlined pre-conditions necessary for dialogue, including that New Delhi would release all political prisoners in Kashmir, lift its “military siege” of the area, and stop all human rights violations against Kashmiris.

He said India’s move to scrap the special autonomous status of Kashmir was “not an internal matter” but a “matter for the UN.” The people of Kashmir, he added, must be a third party to any negotiations between the two South Asian countries.

India, however, considers Kashmir its domestic issue and Yusuf’s words as an attempt to divert the Pakistani public’s attention from their own government’s failures.

Srivastava said: “The official is well-advised to restrict his advice to his establishment and not to comment on India’s domestic policy. The statements made by him are contrary to facts on the ground, misleading, and fictitious.”

Political analysts fear that already poor India-Pakistan relations may further deteriorate and affect the whole region.

Mumbai-based socio-political activist and columnist, Sudheendra Kulkarni, told Arab News: “The future of South Asia is completely dependent on the future of India-Pakistan relations and India-China relations.

“Unless you find a peaceful solution to the disputes that we have with Pakistan on the one hand and China on the other, South Asia will remain a zone of conflict, and the zone of conflict will never achieve its full potential for progress and prosperity.

“I strongly believe that instead of this acrimonious exchange of one side saying something and the other side denying it they should conduct themselves in a more mature manner and lay the ground for the beginning of talks that are meaningful,” he said.

Vijayan MJ of Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy, a civil society platform for people-to-people contact between the two countries, blamed the Indian leadership for the worsening of bilateral ties.

“Despite interesting postures of positivity expressed by the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in the recent past on multiple-issue fronts, like that of visas, trade, travel, release of arrested fishermen, water treaty implementation, and so on, (Indian) Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not been responding,” Vijayan said, adding that India had “further worsened the situation” by its “illegal abrogation” of Article 370 of the constitution, which granted autonomy to Kashmir.

Kashmiri experts are skeptical about the success of any talks between India and Pakistan, especially for their cause.

“It does not seem that talks, if indeed they are held, will yield anything by the mood we witnessed in the interview,” said Srinagar-based political analyst, Prof. Siddiq Wahid, in reference to Yusuf’s Tuesday media appearance.

“I believe it is up to us in the Jammu and Kashmir state to create a trajectory toward a resolution that is acceptable to all the parties to the dispute. I appeal to the international community to support it. Seventy-three years is long enough to wait for the two countries.

“From a Kashmir perspective, it seems we have both India and Pakistan, who are unable to leap into the present and future,” Wahid added.

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