Pakistan says peace talks with India cannot take place without addressing the long-running dispute over Kashmir, calling alleged Indian attempts to sideline the issue “unrealistic."
Tensions in the region have been rising since last week when New Delhi abruptly called off the long-awaited meeting with Islamabad as military clashes along the Himalayan region's so-called Line of Control continued.
Recent heavy military clashes in the are have killed civilians on both sides. According to officials, top Pakistani and Indian army commanders mutually agreed to defuse tensions during a call on their telephone "hotline" Tuesday.
Each side has accused the other of starting the conflict in violation of Kashmir's decade-long cease-fire accord, which has largely held.
Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries were scheduled to meet this week in Islamabad, but New Delhi canceled after Pakistan's ambassador to India met with separatist leaders from Indian-controlled Kashmir. Some officials say the move has been perceived as a signal of the hardening of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stance on disputes with Pakistan.
Pakistani national security advisor Sartaj Aziz said Tuesday that Islamabad offered talks to New Delhi in “good faith," but he says holding a dialogue without addressing the Kashmir issue is unacceptable to Pakistan.
“If they make conditions [that] are unrealistic, then of course it will require more time and more effort [to hold dialogue]," he said. "All we are doing is appealing to the international community that dialogue between India and Pakistan is necessary for peace in the region, and therefore they should take notice and share our disappointment that these talks have been suspended on very flimsy grounds.”
Aziz says Pakistani officials have met with leaders from the Indian portion of Kashmir in the past and New Delhi has not objected until now.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have made significant progress in improving bilateral trade, economic and cultural ties in recent years.
Aziz says Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has shown a determination to maintain the momentum to achieve his primary goal of stabilizing Pakistan economically.
Sharif accepted an invitation to attend Modi's inauguration, the first Pakistani leader to do so.
Bilateral diplomatic contacts have remained suspended since January 2013 when Indian officials accused Pakistani troops of crossing the Kashmir border and killing five of their soldiers, charges Islamabad rejected as baseless.
India and Pakistan have fought two of three wars over the disputed Himalayan region since the countries gained independence from Britain in 1947. Kashmir remains a primary source of bilateral tensions and India accuses Pakistan of training and arming Muslim insurgents fighting Indian rule.
Islamabad denies the charges, saying it only offers moral and diplomatic support to what it describes as “freedom fighters."