By Peerzada Mohammad Amin
India on Friday called off a meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart in New York, claiming such efforts would be meaningless after the killing of three police officers by suspected militants in Kashmir.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s top diplomat Shah Mehmood Qureshi were to meet on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly later this month, but India’s external affairs ministry said the meeting had been cancelled.
“Any conversation with Pakistan in such an environment would be meaningless,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesman of the external affairs ministry, said in a statement.
New Delhi also cited Islamabad’s decision to release postage stamps “glorifying” slain top Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani as another reason. Wani, 23, was a poster boy of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), the oldest separatist faction in Kashmir, which has been demanding freedom from Indian rule or a merger with Pakistan since 1989. He was shot dead by Indian security forces on July 8, 2016.
In Islamabad, Qureshi told reporters he was disappointed at India’s decision to cancel the foreign minister-level talks, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI).
“It is unfortunate that India has not given a positive response. India has once again wasted an opportunity for peace,” PTI quoted Qureshi as saying. “It is unfortunate that India has not given a positive response. India has once again wasted an opportunity for peace.”
Officers abducted, killed
Police recovered the bullet-riddled bodies of the three policemen on Friday, hours after they were abducted by suspected militants from their homes in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.
HM, the largest rebel group fighting against Indian rule in the region, claimed responsibility.
“Our operatives started operations against the police officers early this morning. We will kill all policemen who did not sit in their homes and follow our orders,” HM leader Riyaz Naikoo posted on Twitter. “We will abduct and kill any policeman, anytime, anywhere.”
Officials said they sounded a high alert in the region and launched a manhunt to track down the attackers.
“We lost three of our brave colleagues in a barbaric terror strike,” police said in a statement. “We condemn this inhuman act and assure that all the culprits shall be dealt under law.”
Weeks earlier, suspected militants abducted 11 policemen and their family members. HM claimed responsibility for the abductions but later freed the abductees, authorities said.
Since the partition of the Indian Sub-Continent in 1947, India and Pakistan have been locked in a territorial dispute over predominantly Muslim Kashmir. A de facto border called the Line of Control divides Kashmir, which is claimed in its entirety by both sides.
An outbreak of insurgency on the Indian side has claimed more than 70,000 lives since the late 1980s. A majority of the fatalities have been civilians.
In June this year, the United Nations issued its first-ever report on human-rights violations in the region, slamming India and Pakistan for alleged abuses in areas they rule and called for a major investigation into such violations.
In the 49-page report, U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein described “a situation of chronic impunity for violations” committed by security forces from both sides.
India, which has deployed about 500,000 soldiers in the territory it controls, accuses Pakistan of arming and training Kashmiri rebel groups, but Pakistan denies the charges.