India is ready to send its top diplomat to Pakistan for talks focused on fighting cross-border terrorism, sources at India’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, after a spike in tension in the disputed northernmost region of Kashmir.
Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar was willing to attend talks on the invitation of his Pakistani counterpart, the sources said, stressing that cross-border terrorism was central to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir state.
The olive branch comes after 40 days of violent protests in Indian-ruled Kashmir that were sparked by the killing by security forces of a field commander of Pakistan-based Islamic militant group Hizbul Mujahideen who enjoyed wide support.
At least 64 people have died and thousands been injured in clashes with security forces that have been denounced by Pakistan, which also claims the right to rule Jammu & Kashmir in a territorial dispute that dates back to partition in 1947.
The Indian sources, who declined to be identified, made it clear, however, that India “rejects in their entirety the self-serving allegations regarding the situation in J&K, which is an integral part of India.”
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is the name of India’s only Muslim-majority state that includes the disputed Kashmir region. No comment was immediately available from Pakistan’s foreign ministry.
A top UN human rights official expressed “deep regret” at the failure of both the Indian and Pakistani authorities to grant access to the separate parts of Kashmir that each run to investigate allegations of serious human rights violations.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement issued in Geneva it was unfortunate that sincere attempts by the United Nations to independently assess the facts in relation to reports of human rights violations had failed.
“Without access, we can only fear the worst,” said Zeid.