India rules out talks with Pakistan at Heart of Asia meet

02 December 2016

New Delhi has shot down any chance for a bilateral dialogue as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's foreign affairs adviser heads to Amritsar for a key regional summit.

Speaking at his weekly news briefing on Thursday, Indian external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup categorically ruled out any possibility of talks between Indian officials and Sartaj Aziz on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia conference, due to take place on 3 an 4 December.

''Talks cannot happen in a climate of continued terrorism,'' The Times of India quoted Swarup as saying. ''India will never accept continued terrorism as the new normal of the bilateral relationship.''

His announcement came a day after Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit stated that Islamabad was ready for a bilateral dialogue with Delhi at the Heart of Asia summit. ''Pakistan is willing to hold unconditional dialogue with India,'' Basit had said, adding that Islamabad's willingness to hold talks shows ''Pakistan's strength, not weakness''.

Swarup's latest statement appeared to refer to the latest attack on an Indian military installation in Kashmir, which took the lives of seven soldiers.

India has blamed such attacks on Pakistan-based militants Ė a charge Pakistan has repeatedly denied. The recent tensions between the two countries spiralled out of control following a deadly assault on an Indian Army base in September that Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants as well.

India has decided to build multi-layered, patrol-free fences along its borders with both Pakistan and Bangladesh by the second half of 2017, The Times of India quoted Border Security Force (BSF) chief K K Sharma as saying on Thursday.

Sharma said that some 20 global firms were in the process of undertaking a technical assessment of the project, adding that BSF is working to implement a comprehensive border management system to convert regular patrolling troops to a quick reaction team.

''With the system established, the guards would be able to conduct a strike upon noticing any sort of infiltration on their surveillance radars.''

According to Sharma, a few pilot projects in this regard were already being worked on - ''Two in Jammu and one each in Punjab and Gujarat where we have marshy areas. One project will be done in Assam's Dhubri.''

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