'Talks with Pak still possible'

'Talks with Pak still possible'

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday did not rule out the possibility of an early thaw in the frosty India-Pakistan ties, even as she blamed Islamabad for derailing New Delhi’s recent effort to restart bilateral diplomatic engagement.

“There is no full stop in diplomacy. There are only commas and semicolons. And after all these, people always move forward,” said Swaraj, when asked about New Delhi's views on the future of its engagement with Islamabad after the cancellation of the foreign secretary-level talks last month. 

She also did not rule out the possibility of a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart M Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York towards the end of this month.

The external affairs minister even dropped hints about India’s willingness for an early meeting between Director General (Military Operations), Lt Gen P R Kumar, and his Pakistani counterpart Major General Sarfraz Chaudhary, to discuss the recent spurt in ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the undisputed stretches of the border.  

   The Modi government had last month called off talks between the two countries, which would have restarted the one-and-a-half-year-long hiatus in bilateral dialogue, to protest against Pakistan’s move to seek the views of the leaders of the Hurriyat Conference and other separatist organisations of Kashmir just before its parleys with India.

Islamabad’s envoy to New Delhi, Abdul Basit, invited the separatist leaders to the High Commission of Pakistan here for consultations on August 18 and 19, just days before Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh was scheduled to travel to the neighbouring country to meet Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, her counterpart there. 
“I do not know why their High Commissioner invited the Kashmiri separatists and talked to them. Why did they (Pakistan) derail the talks (with India)? What did they achieve? Who derailed the initiative? (It is) Pakistan,” Swaraj told journalists in her first standalone press conference after taking over as external affairs minister.

Swaraj justified New Delhi’s decision to call off the August 25 talks. “Is it too much to expect that Pakistan does not meddle in India's internal affairs?” she asked.

Swaraj also expressed “disappointment” over the Pakistan government’s failure to speed up the hitherto tardy trial of seven Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives accused of plotting the November 26-28, 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The trial, at an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan, has been repeatedly adjourned over the past several weeks.

Pakistan of late raked up the issue of the 2007 Delhi-Lahore Samjhauta Express blast, asking India to keep it posted about progress of the trial of its seven plotters and perpetrators. 

Swaraj, however, said the two cases could not be compared at all. 

She also expressed disappointment over Sharif’s failure to deliver on the promises he had made when he came to New Delhi to attend the Modi government's swearing-in ceremony on May 26. 

“Whenever we talk, we will talk with the government of Pakistan, not with the (Pakistani) Army or the ISI,” she told the journalists.

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