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India declines Kashmir talks

August 17, 2016

Foreign Ministry sources said India is prepared to discuss cross-border terrorism but not the future of the disputed Kashmir region. Pakistan said both countries have an "international obligation" to resolve the issue.

Violence in Srinagar
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Khan

Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar is willing to accept an invitation from his Pakistani counterpart to discuss the recent spike in violence along the countries' border, sources in the Indian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

But they added that New Delhi remains unwilling to discuss the disputed Kashmir region, which has been contested by both countries since former British-ruled India was partitioned into two independent nations in 1947.

Later Wednesday, an Indian Embassy representative in Islamabad handed over a letter to the Pakistani government reaffirming that New Delhi would be prepared to discuss "current and relevant" concerns but not Kashmir, which is part-ruled by the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

Gesture by Islamabad

The letter came in response to an invitation Monday by Pakistan to restart talks over the disputed region - the same day as India's Independence Day.

The olive branch followed 40 days of violent protests in Indian-ruled Jammu and Kashmir that were sparked when Indian security forces killed a field commander of Pakistan-based Islamic militant group Hizbul Mujahideen.

Since then, more than 60 people have been killed and thousands injured in clashes with security forces.

Kashmir map

Early Wednesday, two soldiers and a police officer were killed by suspected militants in an ambush on a military convoy in a town 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of the region's capital Srinagar.

A day earlier, local residents accused security forces of firing at protesters, leaving hundreds of people wounded.

On Monday, gunmen shot and wounded 10 police paramilitaries who were trying to impose a curfew in Srinagar during Independence Day.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his annual Independence Day speech Monday to accuse Pakistan of glorifying terrorism.

UN appeals for access

Meanwhile, United Nations' Human Rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has expressed "deep regret" at both sides' failure to grant his team access to the region to probe recent allegations of human rights violations.

"Without access we can only fear the worst," Zeid said in a statement released in Geneva, following claims of the use of excessive force and state sponsored violence.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the Kashmir region but until recently, tensions had eased. India controls around 43 percent, while Pakistan administers the north and a western strip of the region.

@dwnews - Social media campaign highlighting violence in Kashmir

mm/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)