New strain in India-Pakistan relations as top-level meeting canceled

India-Pakistan relations suffer new strain as foreign minister cancels meeting

Relations between India and Pakistan suffered a setback Monday when India’s foreign minister canceled a meeting with her Pakistani counterpart.

Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said she would not visit Pakistan for the Aug. 25 meeting because a Pakistani envoy had met with a separatist leader from the disputed Kashmir region.

The meeting between Pakistan’s high commissioner in India, Abdul Basit, and separatist leader Shabir Shah “raises questions on Pakistan’s intention,” India’s foreign ministry spokesman, Syed Akbaruddin, told ANI News.

He said Singh had told Basit before the Kashmir meeting “that they can have dialogue either with India or separatists,” but not with both.

A couple of hours after India canceled the talks, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted: “Meetings with Kashmiri leaders, before Pakistan-India talks, is a long standing practice to facilitate the resolution of Kashmir dispute.”

Shah was quoted as saying that the Indian government’s move was “regrettable.”

The India-Pakistan relationship appeared to be blossoming when new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to his swearing-in ceremony in May. Both prime ministers were cordial and posed for friendly photographs.

However, last week, Modi generated headlines when he said of Pakistan: “The neighboring country has lost the strength to fight a conventional war, but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism."

The cancellation of the ministers’ meeting also comes on the back of 11 cease-fire violations by Pakistan in 11 days.

Since partition in 1947, India and Pakistan have engaged in three wars, two of them revolving around the two countries’ rival claims to Kashmir.

Parth M.N. is a special correspondent.

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