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Pakistan Foreign Minister Cancels Visit to India After Negative Remarks - 2003-09-17

Pakistan says Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri has dropped plans to visit India next month after officials in New Delhi made it clear the Pakistani minister would not be welcome.

Pakistan is hosting the 12th summit of the seven-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Islamabad in January. Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri has been visiting the member states to invite them formally to the meeting.

Since India has indicated that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will attend the summit, Mr. Kasuri was planning to visit New Delhi to deliver the Indian leader's invitation personally.

But senior officials in India have told the Pakistani minister not to bother. They say Mr. Kasuri's visit is not required because India already knows the summit dates.

Pakistan has criticized the Indian snub as "regrettable" and "discourteous." In an official statement, the foreign ministry says the Indian remarks confirm the fear of all South Asian Association countries that India is not only uninterested in the regional association, but also that it has no intention of engaging Pakistan in a dialogue to settle their dispute over Kashmir.

India maintains that Pakistan-backed Muslim militants are crossing into its portion of Kashmir from the Pakistani side of the divided territory to carry on a 13-year-old insurgency there. Indian leaders insist that until such support is terminated, bilateral talks with Pakistan cannot be held.

Pakistan denies that it backs the militants, or is helping them to cross the Line of Control between the two parts of Kashmir, which is known as the LOC.

"We have said that there is no cross-LOC movement right now," said Masood Khan, Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman." Pakistan has taken all the steps it could have taken and now it is India's turn to show reciprocity. That is very important."

Relentless tensions over Kashmir brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a fourth war between them last year. Intense international diplomacy averted a conflict, and relations have been slowly improving in recent months.

Since April, the countries have restored full diplomatic relations and cross-border transportation, and have expressed a desire for an official dialogue to settle their differences. But New Delhi has resisted calls to begin formal talks as long as, what it calls, Pakistan-supported terrorism continues in India.