Pakistan bashing has become fashionable, says Salman Bashir

New Delhi/Islamabad: Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Salman Bashir has urged New Delhi to accept his country's offer for talks at the Foreign Minster level and denied, yet again, that Pakistani troops mutilated the bodies of two Indian soldiers after killing them in an ambush along the Line of Control last week.

Mr Bashir said, "Unfortunately, Pakistan bashing has become fashionable whenever there is an issue."

The High Commissioner spoke in an interview after Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar's offer to talk to her Indian counterpart in a bid to defuse tension over repeated ceasefire violations along the LoC in Kashmir, got a lukewarm response in New Delhi.  Sources said that while India favours engagement, it was unlikely to agree to holding talks at the level of ministers any time soon. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made it clear to Pakistan that it "cannot be business as usual" till those who mutilated the bodies of Indian soldiers killed in Pakistani firing, beheading one of them, are brought to book.  (Pak Foreign Minister offers talks with India to defuse tension)

The Pakistan envoy said, "Such heinous acts of course are condemnable irrespective of wherever they happen and whenever they have happened. But to say that they were done by Pakistan or the Pakistan army was responsible is something that we cannot agree to." Mr Bashir added, "When India raised the issue with us, we had said that we had made some preliminary checks...that we were prepared to do more and both the militaries needed to get to the bottom of it. That is the way we think this matter should have been handled instead of playing or stirring raw emotions and upping the rhetoric. That is detrimental to normal business."

He said there was a need "to bring back normalcy. I believe it is in mutual interest of both the nations to use the offer made by Pakistan's Foreign Minister to deal with the present state of affairs."

New Delhi is yet to formally respond to Islamabad's offer for talks, made by Mrs Khar in a statement on Wednesday night, only a day after she had accused India of "warmongering."  External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said yesterday that the government will not take any decision in haste. "These are things which you should anaylse, reflect on and take a decision. When we take a decision, we will let you know. Let's just take things a step at a time. We have been through difficult moments. The government will take everything into account. The PM has given a clear indication that we will move step by step. Let's see what is necessary to do and say, there's no hurry," he told reporters. (Read)

Mr Khurshid briefed the cabinet on Pakistan's offer yesterday, reportedly saying that sustained pressure from India had made the neighbour shift its stance from trying to internationalise the issue to seeking bilateral dialogue. Islamabad had earlier suggested a United Nations investigation into the killing of two Indian soldiers and mutilation of their bodies along the Line of Control last week. India had flatly rejected that suggestion.

Mr Khurshid also reportedly pointed out that Pakistan had only spoken through the media so far and India would decide on any dialogue only after a formal offer from Pakistan's diplomatic channels.

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