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Pakistan pulls out of WTO Summit in India

Pakistan has pulled out of the World Trade Organisation Summit in India as tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours touched new heights. 

Diplomatic sources said that “nobody will attend the WTO meeting” in Delhi from Islamabad. “We have conveyed this decision to India. We cannot send our commerce minister to India when they are harassing our diplomats,” a senior government official told The Nation. 

Another official said: “India cannot take us for granted. They want to continue killing the Kashmiris, harass our diplomats, conspire against us (Pakistan) and then invite us for meetings.” 

He added: “India has been conveyed that we will play for our own interests. They (India) have been asked to change their policy before expecting us (Pakistan) to attend summits in New Delhi.” 

Last month, India had invited Pakistan’s Commerce Minister Pervez Malik to participate in the informal WTO ministerial meeting taking place in New Delhi on March 19-20. 

Pakistan had originally accepted the invitation, extended after the Financial Action Task Force’s indication that Pakistan will be put on the ‘grey list’ in June for allegedly failing to control terror financing. 

The invitation was part of December 2017 secret back-channel negotiations between the two National Security Advisers Nasser Janjua and Ajit Doval. 

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is also unlikely to participate in the WTO meeting called by India to discuss ways to take forward important issues in the WTO. 

India has invited Trade Ministers of over 50 nations including the US, China and Pakistan to discuss key issues related with areas like agriculture and services. 

Earlier, Pakistan recalled its High Commissioner to India Sohail Mehmood ‘for consultations’ after harassment of Pakistani diplomats in New Delhi. 

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammed Faisal said that Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner’s vehicle carrying his children was stopped for 40 minutes. 

“The deliberate bullying is not confined to a single isolated event, but continues unabated in a series of incidents, while picture evidence is also present,” he said. 

Dr Faisal said neither any such incident occurred with Indian diplomats in Pakistan nor Indian High Commission had informed them of such situation. “Pakistan can go to any limits for the safeguard of its diplomats,” he added. 

This week, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that Pakistan does not expect improvement in ties with India as New Delhi was sticking with a hostile policy towards Islamabad. 

Asif said: “India is violating ceasefire agreement time and again on the Line of Control and working boundary. In such circumstances we are not expecting improvement in relations between the two countries.” 

This came after the Foreign Minister had told the National Assembly that India committed more than 400 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary since January in which 18 civilians were killed. 

Asif said the LoC violations were an attempt to divert the attention from the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Held Kashmir. 

In 2003, Pakistan and India had declared ceasefire along the LoC but in the recent months, India violated the peace deal numerous times. 

Tensions between Pakistan and India have been high since the killing of a Kashmiri freedom fighter, Burhan Wani, in July 2016. 

An attack on Indian forces in September 2016 - that killed 19 soldiers in Uri area of Held Kashmir - further heightened the tensions. India also claimed it had carried a ‘surgical strike’ to avenge the Uri attack. Pakistan rejected the Indian claim. 

In January, Pakistan extended the MunaBao (India)-Khokhrapar (Pakistan) rail link agreement with India for another three years. Pakistan agreed to extend the agreement for another three years from February 1. 2018 to January 31, 2021. The agreement was signed in 2006.

The Munabao- Khokhrapar train service connects Pakistan’s Sindh and India’s Rajasthan provinces. 

Recently, Pakistan had organised a ‘family reunion’ for convicted Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav – dubbed India’s ‘face of terror.’ Jadhav’s mother and wife – Avanti Jadhav and Chetenkul Jadhav –were allowed to sit across a glass barrier for 40 minutes and speak to each other. 

India, however, claimed Jadhav’s family was mistreated and the meeting could have been conducted in a more relaxed environment. Pakistan said a convicted spy deserved no facilities, adding, the glass barrier was meant for security.

 

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