21/08/2015 8:30 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Pakistan Cancels Commonwealth Conference To Highlight 'Kashmir Issue'


In further signs of escalating tension with India, Pakistan has pulled out of hosting a key conference which was to bring together speakers of Commonwealth nations, after India insisted that the Speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly be invited. Islamabad refused, saying that Kashmir was disputed territory. The conference will now be held in New York.

"We have clarified to the London Secretariat of the Commonwealth that Kashmir is a disputed territory and now it is impossible for the Commonwealth Conference to be held in Pakistan," National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq told reporters.

"A detailed letter will be written to the CPA countries over the Kashmir dispute and the Kashmir issue will be raised in every forum of the Commonwealth," Sadiq was quoted by PTI as saying.

"The decision to hold the event in Pakistan was made on the basis that the Kashmir assembly speaker would not be invited to the Conference," he said.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had said that India would boycott the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, to be held between September 30 and October 8, after Islamabad refused to invite Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Speaker Kavinder Gupta, according to PTI.

This comes days before the national security advisers of both nations are due to meet.

"When it is clear that we have fought wars over this, brought resolutions in the United Nations, then how can we abandon our point of view (on Kashmir) now?" Reuters quoted Sadiq as saying.

Trouble started after the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi said it had scheduled a meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders for August 23, the same day as the NSA meet. A year ago, India cancelled talks between the two nations' foreign secretaries after a similar meeting with Kashmiri separatists, Reuters reported.

On Thursday, Kashmiri separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who were among those invited by the Pakistan High Commission for the meeting with national security advisor Sartaj Aziz, were placed under house arrest for a couple of hours. They were later released after the government faced criticism for its action.

Indian authorities posted security outside the gates of the leaders and raided the homes of other separatists, including that of Hurriyat spokesperson Shahid Ul Islam and senior leader Javed Mir.

But an unfazed Pakistan said on Thursday that it would go ahead as planned with the talks with Kashmiri separatists when Aziz goes to New Delhi.

“Meeting with Kashmiri leaders and inviting them to various occasions that are hosted by our high commissioner is a long-standing practice… and meeting with Kashmiri leaders is common practice before consultations and talks between the two countries,” Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

Ties between the neighbours warmed slightly last month, after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a summit in Russia and agreed to resume high-level talks.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association links legislators in former British colonies.

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