Planned high-level Pakistan, India talks falter over Kashmir
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s national security adviser said Saturday he was ready to travel to New Delhi for the first-ever direct talks with his Indian counterpart, though India warned his trip must be restricted to discussing security issues amid tensions over him meeting Kashmir separatists.
India recently invited Sartaj Aziz to speak Sunday to its national security adviser counterpart Ajit Doval after the prime ministers of the two nuclear-armed rivals met in Russia in July. Since then, Indian and Pakistani troops have fired at each other in the disputed border region of Kashmir.
Uncertainty about the trip began Friday when India said it would not be “appropriate” for Aziz to meet with separatist leaders from the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. Pakistan’s high commissioner to New Delhi had invited Kashmiri leaders for a meeting with Aziz.
On Saturday, Aziz said it was a normal practice on the part of Pakistani leaders to meet with Kashmiri leaders during visits to India.
“On my part, I am still prepared to go to New Delhi without any preconditions,” he said.
In New Delhi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Saturday that Aziz would be welcome if he agreed to limit his discussions to ending terrorism and violence.
“India would discuss the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan after the issue of terrorism is resolved,” she told reporters.
Swaraj said she expected a reply soon from Pakistan.
The hostility between Pakistan and India dates back seven decades, but strains have grown since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Mod, a Hindu nationalist, took office a year ago. The two nations have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence in 1947.
Associated Press writer Ashok Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this report.