Chances of an India-Pakistan dialogue, during Pakistan's National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz's India visit appears grim as Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup on Thursday talked tough on cross-border terrorism.
It was expected that Aziz's visit may thaw out the India-Pakistan relations that have hit a new low since skirmishes along the Line of Control and terror attacks on army camps have increased. However, the MEA has shown little signs that a bilateral dialogue could be in the offing.
Swarup, who was addressing a weekly press briefing on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Summit, to be held on 3 and 4 December said that India does not sense any willingness to talk on Pakistan's part, while clarifying that it has not received any request to start a dialogue.
"We have not received any requests for talks. India is always open for talks, but they obviously cannot be held with continued terrorism," Swarup told reporters in New Delhi.
It was largely being speculated that the dialogue would finally inch forward, after months of deep freeze in the relations during Aziz's visit, as earlier in the week, Pakistan had sent out mixed signals on the issue.
Pakistani newspaper, Dawn quoted a foreign ministry official as saying, "For now, we don't see any willingness on their part... the ball is in India's court, for they know we are willing but we don't know whether they are willing." However, Aziz himself had said that although India scuttled the Saarc summit, Pakistan would not do the same — leaving many guessing that the two nations may indulge in dialogue.
Swarup clarified that Pakistan has not officially raised a request for any talks while dismissing Aziz's comments that India was responsible for the failure of Saarc summit.
"It was not India that scuttled the Saarc process but all the member nations wrote to Nepal (who was hosting the summit) to state that the summit will not be conducive in the present circumstances," Swarup said.
He also added that India too shares Pakistan's sentiment to hold dialogue without any preconditions, but he stated that talks were not possible with repeated instances of cross-border terrorism.
"When Pakistan says talks should be unconditional, we also say the same thing. But all we say is that there should be no cross-border terrorism," Swarup said.
"India is always open for talks, but they obviously cannot be held with continued terrorism. India will not accept continued terrorism. It was India that has taken all initiatives to start dialogue with Pakistan. But what have we got in response to those initiatives," Swarup added.
Pakistan and India, at the last Heart of Asia ministerial meeting in Islamabad, had agreed to start "Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue" that was to cover all outstanding issues. The resumption of the dialogue could, however, not take place due to the Pathankot attack in January earlier this year.
Bilateral relations further deteriorated in July following the commencement of unrest in Jammu and Kashmir and India placed the blame for the 18 September Uri military camp attack and continuing infiltration attempts on Pakistan. Another instance that further froze ties between New Delhi and Islamabad was when the body of one army soldier was found mutilated in Machhil sector near the border, while three soldiers were killed in the attack.
Moreover, Tuesday's attack on Army’s 166 Field Regiment at Nagrota, which killed seven Indian soldiers, including to two Major-rank officers, apparently further extinguished any chances of improvement in relations between the two neighbours, in the near foreseeable future.
Things turned worse with the spike in ceasefire violations at the border that have left dozens of people dead in barely two months.
Pakistan has, however, denied India's claims that it was behind these incidents.
The Pakistan government decided to attend the Heart of Asia conference despite a deep freeze in bilateral ties, even though as it alleged that India had "scuttled the Saarc summit" that Islamabad was to host in November this year.
Aziz will be leading the Pakistani delegation to the two-day meeting that will focus on cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours for improving connectivity and tackling security threats in the region.
With inputs from IANS