Home/ Politics / Policy/  India, Pakistan exchange words over Kashmir

New Delhi: India and Pakistan on Thursday exchanged sharp words with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif describing Kashmir as his country’s “jugular vein" and India stating that the region is an integral part of its territory.

The verbal spat took place on the occasion of Kashmir Solidarity Day, observed annually in Pakistan in support of the people of Indian-administered Kashmir. Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin advised Pakistan during a foreign ministry briefing in New Delhi to focus on its internal problems and not “covet what is not theirs and never will be".

Akbaruddin also announced the visit to New Delhi Sri Lanka’s new president Maithripala Sirisena from 15 to 18 February and another four-day visit by Singapore’s president Tony Tan Keng Yam starting 8 February.

On events organized in Pakistan on Kashmir Solidarity Day, Akbaruddin said India was aware of the “multiplicity of activities" undertaken by Pakistani leaders and “by unsavoury elements who are wanted elsewhere". The latter was a reference to Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the head of the Lashkar-e-Toiba militant group that India blames for the planning and execution of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack. In 2012, the US announced a $10 million reward for any information on Saeed leading to his arrest.

“Our view is that Pakistan’s self destructive and futile quest for territorial aggrandizement in Jammu and Kashmir is well known to us. Let me repeat for you that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is and will always remain an integral part of the Indian union. It is therefore high time for Pakistan to start paying attention to all the problems that afflict them rather than covet that is not theirs and never will be," Akbaruddin said.

These comments were in response to Sharif stating in a speech at Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir that he had an emotional bond with Kashmir from childhood and would continue to struggle for the rights of people of Kashmir, which is the “jugular vein of Pakistan".

“Lasting peace in South Asia is possible only with the just resolution of Kashmir issues," he was cited as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.

The dispute over Kashmir has triggered three of the four wars between India and Pakistan since 1947. The region is administered in parts by both and India accuses Pakistan of supporting an insurgency in Indian-administered part of the disputed territory. Countless rounds of peace talks have not yielded any results. India called off preparatory talks scheduled for August that would have seen both sides resuming the dialogue after the Narendra Modi government took office in May.

On Sirisena’s visit, Akbaruddin said the visit to India would be the first visit abroad by the Sri Lankan president since he took office last month. Preparatory work for the visit was done by the foreign minister of Sri Lanka Mangala Samaraweera when he visited New Delhi last month and held talks with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi.

Sirisena will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan—as per the practice followed during a state visit, the Indian foreign ministry spokesman said adding the President Pranab Mukherjee would be hosting a banquet for Sirisena.

“As a close and friendly neighbour, India looks forward to engage closely with President Sirisena across the spectrum of issues and we hope this will strengthen our warm and friendly ties with Sri Lanka," Akbaruddin said.

The comments indicate a re-scripting of ties that had cooled during the tenure of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. India had been wary of Sri Lanka’s growing closeness to China with investments flowing in from that country into the island nation, which has been traditionally closer to India. India was also upset when Chinese submarines docked in Sri Lanka on two separate occasions last year.

On the visit of the Singaporean president, Akbaruddin said it was aimed at marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and the city state that is India’s largest trading partner within the economically vibrant Association for Southeast Asian Nations. Singapore is also the second largest source of foreign direct investment into India. India was looking at cooperating with Singapore to upgrade skill development and establish smart cities, he added.

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Updated: 05 Feb 2015, 11:29 PM IST
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