India rejects Hina's offer of talks

India rejects Hina's offer of talks

India has almost rejected Pakistan’s offer for talks between External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Pakistan counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, even as it welcomed the lull along the Line of Control since Wednesday.

“Let us not rush into the matter and (let us) move step by step,” Khurshid said on Thursday, reacting to Pakistani Foreign Minister’s statement that she was ready to have talks with her Indian counterpart to defuse the tension the LoC witnessed since January 6. “These are very important areas in which thoughtful analysis is done and appropriately you are told what is to be said. So, let’s not rush into anything,” he added. New Delhi, however, is understood to be not averse to talks at the level of officials, although it expects Islamabad to first launch a probe into the brutal killing of two Indian Army personnel on the LoC near Mendhar in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir. One of the slain soldiers of 13 Rajputana Rifles was beheaded by the Pakistan Army personnel, triggering strong protests from India.  

Khurshid and Defence Minister A K Antony on Thursday briefed the Union Cabinet on the situation along the LoC and noted that the fire exchange between the two armies had stopped since the Director General of Military Operation Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia and his Pakistani counterpart Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem spoke over the telephone on Wednesday and agreed not to allow escalation of tension.

The Union Cabinet discussed the situation along the LoC, which has seen sporadic fire-exchanges since the Pakistan soldiers first violated the ceasefire near Rampur in J&K on January 6 triggering retaliation by the Indian Army.

In the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Antony is understood to have mentioned that no further truce breach by the Pakistani Army was reported since Wednesday. According to sources, Khurshid told the meeting that although Pakistan had initially made an ‘unacceptable’ offer for probe by the military observers of the United Nations, it had now indicated its willingness to resolve the issue bilaterally.

“Direct talks between counterparts don’t just come in a jiffy; you sort of work up gradually or work towards something. For instance, when we come in contact at our level, that becomes a base for the contact between heads of governments to come together. So there is lot of work that you need to do,” Khurshid later said in an interview to a TV channel. The Ministry of External Affairs posted the transcript of the interview on its website.

The External Affairs Minister was reacting to his Pakistani counterpart’s offer for talks. “Instead of issuing belligerent statements by military and political leaders from across the border and ratcheting up tension, it is advisable for the two countries to discuss all concerns related to the LoC with a view to reinforcing respect for the ceasefire, may be at the level of the Foreign Ministers to sort out things,” Khar said on Wednesday, adding: “Continued tension along the LoC is not in the interest of peace and stability in the region”.

Khar made the offer for talks with Khurshid after New Delhi talked tough. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said that India could not allow business with Pakistan to be as usual. He also said that Islamabad would have to bring to book those responsible for the killing of the two Indian Army soldiers and beheading of one of them.

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