India rules out resumption of talks with Pakistan
Eight people were killed in Indian-held Kashmir Sunday after a gunbattle broke out between suspected separatists and the Indian army, officials said.
The alleged separatists were hiding in a south Kashmir village when the Indian military and police surrounded it and a firefight broke out.
“Four terrorists were killed and four weapons were recovered from the encounter site,” claimed army spokesman in Srinagar, Col Manish. “Two soldiers were also killed and three injured during the encounter.”
Two civilians, including the son of the owner of the house in which the suspects were hiding, also died. Clashes occurred between Indian government forces and protesters in the aftermath of the battle and at least 25 people were injured including 12 with bullet injuries, authorities said. Three suspects managed to escape, and a heavy police contingent was deployed in the area “to maintain law and order”, Indian police added.
Meanwhile, categorically ruling out resumption of peace talks with Islamabad despite a more peaceful Line of Control and improving situation in Kashmir, a top government official said India would “seek peace with Pakistan at a time and place of its own choosing”. New Delhi also feels that last month’s house arrest of Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed is due to a combination of factors, most of them internal to Pakistan.
“There are no back-channel talks with Pakistan currently on, nor do we have any intent to resume talks now. The process will not start till we are sure that we will gain something as a country. We desire peace but it will be on our own terms. Peace with Pakistan will be at the time and place of our choosing,” the top government source told The Sunday Express.
He highlighted the cessation of ceasefire violations at the LoC since new Pakistan army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, took over on November 29 and claimed this had been accompanied by a fall in infiltration across the LoC, an improved internal security situation in Kashmir and a reduction in terrorism. He, however, argued that New Delhi could not always “respond to a stimulus from the other side”, and talk whenever Pakistan wants it to.
Explaining the house arrest of Hafiz Saeed, the top government source said there was no one cause for Islamabad’s action. “Please note who else from LeT/JuD, besides Hafiz Saeed, has been put under house arrest.—AFP/INP