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India to counter Pakistan’s Kashmir pitch at UN

New Delhi, Sept 22 (Calcutta Tube) Amid the strong possibility of a bilateral meeting between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart in New York, India is bracing to counter a likely offensive by Islamabad on the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly.

‘It would be naive on our part not to expect the issue to be raised…it is a possibility and we are prepared for it,’ sources in the external affairs ministry said Wednesday.

The sources said India will counter Pakistan’s renewed bid to internationalize the Kashmir issue even as they admitted that efforts were on to fix a bilateral meeting between Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the UNGA.

The sharp rhetorical exchanges on Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan’s call for international mediation on Kashmir has, however, soured the atmospherics ahead of a likely meeting.

Reacting to Qureshi’s comments in a speech to a think tank in the US, sources said India has firmly rejected any third-party intervention and asserted that the Kashmir issue can only be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan.

‘Our position on Jammu and Kashmir is very well articulated and known to international interlocutors that it is an integral part of India. If there are any issues, they can be addressed bilaterally (by India and Pakistan),’ they added.

India has strongly objected to the statements on Kashmir made by the Pakistan foreign office last week and in the two houses of parliament, the National Assembly and the Senate Tuesday, alleging human rights violations in the state and calling for international intervention.

Krishna is presently in the US to represent India at the UN General Assembly.

The sources added that India won’t be surprised if Pakistan continues to rake up Kashmir at different global fora and thinks it’s part of a carefully crafted strategy to keep the spotlight on the issue at least till US President Barack Obama’s visit to India in November.

But the war of words over Kashmir has not dampened India’s desire for re-engaging Pakistan despite the failed foreign minister-level talks over two months ago. Krishna and Qureshi are likely to meet during several multilateral meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in the next few days.

Krishna and Qureshi are going to be present at ministerial meetings of the SAARC countries, the Non-Aligned Movement, the G-77, the Commonwealth grouping, the Asian Cooperation Dialogue meeting, the conference on disarmament and the NAM ministerial meeting on Palestine.

With Krishna and Qureshi likely to be under the same roof on several occasions, there is a strong possibility of a bilateral meeting.

However, both sides are keen that it does not just become a photo-op and are aiming at ‘meaningful and substantial’ bilateral talks that could set the stage for a productive visit by Qureshi to India later this year.

If it materializes, it will be the first meeting between the two ministers since their July 15 talks failed over clashing perceptions about the scope of the discussionsand Pakistan’s insistence on a time-line for resolving complex issues like Kashmir.

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