New Delhi: India today called off foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan with just a week to go, sending out a "clear and unambiguous message" that its envoy's engagement with Kashmiri separatist leaders was unacceptable.
The decision came shortly after Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit met separatist leader Shabir Shah in the first of a series of meetings planned over three days.
Sources say Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, who was supposed to meet her Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhury on August 25, had warned the envoy that "he can either have dialogue with India or separatists."
So moments after Shabir Shah walked out of the Pakistan High Commission today and confirmed his meeting with Mr Basit, India announced that talks stand cancelled.
"Pakistan's continued effort to interfere in India's internal affairs is unacceptable," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, adding, "It raises questions about Pakistan's sincerity and undermines the constructive diplomatic efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May."
New Delhi's decision marks a giant step back for diplomatic ties that received a boost after PM Modi, in a surprising move, invited Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif along with other South Asian leaders to his swearing-in ceremony in Delhi in May
On Friday, PM Modi also took a sharp departure from Independence Day speeches by his predecessors by not mentioning Pakistan at all in his extempore address to the nation.
Three days before that, however, on a visit to Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Modi had said that Pakistan, "has lost the strength to fight a conventional war, but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism."
India's tough stand is also being linked to a spike in attacks from across the border in the past few days. There have been 10 violations of the 2003 ceasefire in nine days. On Sunday, Pakistan Rangers targeted posts of the Border Security Force (BSF) and unprovoked shelling continued through the night.
Dialogue between the two countries was suspended after the beheading of an Indian jawan by Pakistani troops in January, 2013.
India and Pakistan have fought three major wars since the 1947 Partition and two of them were over Kashmir.