Not shying away from talks with Pakistan: India

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New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) India on Friday asserted that it was not shying away from talks with Pakistan and that New Delhi is prepared to discuss all issues with Islamabad.

“India has never shied away from engagement with Pakistan and is prepared to discuss all outstanding issues with Pakistan bilaterally in an atmosphere free from terror and violence,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in reply to a question at his weekly media briefing here.

“In fact, it is India which has repeatedly taken initiatives to engage Pakistan,” he said.

His comments come after Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Wednesday accused India of “avoiding” dialogue with Pakistan as it would mean having to negotiate issues like Kashmir.

Contradicting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement in an interview to a TV channel in which he placed the onus of the stalled bilateral talks on Pakistan, Aziz asserted that Pakistan was not refraining from talks with its neighbour.

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Swarup said it was Prime Minister Modi who first invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony on May 26, 2014.

“Thereafter, it was again External Affairs Minister (Sushma Swaraj) who travelled to Pakistan in December 2015 and held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Conference which led to the decision to start a comprehensive bilateral dialogue. And it was again Prime Minister Modi who took the decision to travel to Lahore at a very short notice on December 25, 2015,” Swarup pointed out.

Following the decision to hold the comprehensive bilateral dialogue, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar was scheduled to go to Pakistan in the middle of January to discuss modalities for the dialogue.

However, a cross-border terror attack on the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot that claimed the lives of seven Indian security personnel derailed the process.

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Swarup on Friday referred to Sushma Swaraj’s statement at a press conference on June 19 in which she said that after an incident like Pathankot, it was a natural and legitimate expectation of the government and the country that there should be concrete action from the Pakistani side which has not denied involvement of its nationals in the Pathankot attack.

“Therefore, as the External Affairs Minister said, we are awaiting concrete investigation to take place at the Pakistani end,” he stated.

In reply to another question, the spokesperson refuted Pakistan’s claim that it has written a “fresh” letter seeking more evidence on the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in order to bring the case to its “logical end”.

“No fresh letter from the Pakistan Foreign Secretary has been received by us,” he said.

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“He did send a letter in September 2015, to which our Foreign Secretary had also replied.”

Referring to media reports about a “so-called list of 24 witnesses” of Mumbai terror attack, Swarup said: “However, we have not received any details from Pakistan regarding these witnesses.”

“Because of our commitment to cooperate with Pakistan to bring the case to a speedy conclusion, you may expect some more conversations and communications between the two sides in the near future.”

He added that India remained committed to providing full cooperation to Pakistan to bring perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice.



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