India to boycott C’wealth conference in Pakistan


NEW DELHI: India will boycott Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) to be held in Islamabad in protest against Pakistan for not inviting the Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) assembly speaker.


The CPC is scheduled to be held from September 30 to October 9. Reportedly, Pakistan has said the speaker was not invited, as IHK is a disputed territory.


However, India has asked Pakistan to send the invitation or face boycott.


“Earlier today, an emergency meeting of the president of the union chapter as well as the 31 India chapters of the CPA (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association) India region was held in which they called on the chairperson of the CPA executive committee to use her good offices to immediately resolve the matter and ensure the issue of invitation to [Indian-held] Jammu and Kashmir CPA branch, failing which the India chapters will boycott the event,” said India’s foreign minister spokesperson, Vikas Swarup.


Speakers of all Indian states had met in New Delhi on Friday where they decided to boycott the conference if Jammu and Kashmir assembly speaker was not invited.


The theme for this year’s CPC is ‘Renewing the commitment to pluralism and inclusive democracy in the Commonwealth’.


Other topics like religious freedom, parliamentary action on terrorism, the economic impact of gender-based violence, and a debate on the role of the media in political and public life will also be discussed.


This decision comes at a time when tension mounts between the two nations after India claimed Pakistan’s involvement in the recent militant attacks. Analysts and diplomats on both sides say the attacks are engineered by hardline elements within the two countries who oppose rapprochement.


Meanwhile, IHK Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta said Pakistan has done this to insult India. “Pakistan has deliberately done this to humiliate India. I would like to thank the speaker of the lower house and the legislative assembly members for taking a strong decision,” said Gupta.


The nuclear-armed neighbours, who have fought three wars since independence in 1947, are also scheduled to hold talks between top security officials on August 23-24 in New Delhi but with starkly different expectations.


While India sees the meeting as an opportunity for it to prove its long-held view that militants get support from over its western border, Pakistan wants the dialogue to be broader and form the basis for deeper engagement. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi agreed to a new round of peace talks when they met in Russia last month. As part of the rapprochement effort, the two sides agreed that India’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval, would hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz.


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