India says it is willing to discuss Kashmir

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NEW DELHI: Days after calling off talks with Pakistan, and two days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan, India on Thursday signalled its willingness to discuss the Kashmir issue with Islamabad in a bilateral format.

India’s disruption of this month’s proposed foreign secretaries’ talks had set off strong disapproval of Mr Modi’s decision across world capitals, including in Washington where the Indian prime minister is due to meet President Barack Obama next month.

Japan, due to host Mr Modi for five days from Saturday, is a staunch supporter of India-Pakistan dialogue. Reports said Mr Modi was hoping to clinch a hitherto elusive civil nuclear supplies deal with Japan during the visit.

Reports said the latest affirmation of discussions on Kashmir came from Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin, who was reacting to Pakistan government’s remarks that the Indo-Pak dialogue without discussions on Kashmir was “unacceptable”.

“As regards engagement with Pakistan, we have made it very clear that we will engage in the framework of Simla agreement and Lahore Declaration and both these provide for discussing all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. Our view is very clear, a bilateral framework to discuss all outstanding issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

He was asked about the comments by Pakistani National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz, who has reportedly said that Islamabad offered talks to New Delhi in “good faith,” but holding a dialogue without addressing the Kashmir issue was unacceptable to Pakistan.

Mr Aziz was also quoted as saying that Pakistani officials have met leaders from the Indian portion of Kashmir in the past and New Delhi had not objected until now.

India had called off the talks between Foreign Secretaries slated for August 25, telling Pakistan bluntly to choose between an Indo-Pak dialogue or hobnobbing with the Hurriyat Conference.

India also objected to Pakistan terming the Kashmiri separatists as “stakeholders” in the resolution of Kashmir issue saying that, as per Simla Agreement, it was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and any other approach will “not yield results”.

Asked about the Border Security Forces chief’s remarks that India has witnessed heaviest ceasefire violations along the International Border since 1971 war, the spokesman was quoted as saying that Indian forces are best equipped to respond to such incidents.

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