NEW DELHI: Tensions continue to simmer between India and Pakistan, with Kashmir and Balochistan taking centre stage.

Hardening its stance on dialogue with Pakistan, India set forth a five point agenda for talks. New Delhi asked Islamabad to end incitement to violence and terrorism, stop cross border terrorism, detain and prosecute terrorists like Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed, deny a safe haven to fugitives like Mumbai underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and close terror camps where terrorists like Bahadur Ali have been trained.

In a letter submitted by Indian envoy Gautam Bambawale to the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, India also referred to “Pakistan’s illegal occupation of J&K” and sought a briefing on the progress on investigations into the attack on the Pathankot base and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack trial.

Putting the ball back in Islamabad’s court, India responded to Pakistan’s invitation for secretary level talks on Kashmir but saying that Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar was “willing” to travel to Islamabad to discuss “cross-border terror in Kashmir” but will not discuss Kashmir itself.

Speaking at the foreign correspondent’s club in Delhi, FS Jaishankar said that “Looking at the neighbourhood, we clearly face a unique challenge in respect to one country which is Pakistan.” The FS added that despite the Modi government having made a huge effort to reach out to Pakistan, India has faced several terror attacks which have made “the relationship difficult to grow.”

MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that the FS had conveyed his acceptance of the invitation to Islamabad, but with the clear instructions that Kashmir was off the table.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has slammed PM Narendra Modi’s mention of Balochistan during his Independence Day speech. Pakistan’s Foreign Office condemned the statement, calling it a violation of the United Nations charter and adding that it was an attempt to divert attention from the violence surging in Kashmir. “It is the violation of the U.N. Charter...He (Mr. Modi) crossed the red line by talking about Balochistan,” spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said in a weekly press briefing at the Foreign Office.

Pakistan has repeatedly brought up Kashmir in the last few weeks in the attempt to internationalise the issue, as India struggles to restore normalcy to the valley following protests over the killing of Hizb leader Burhan Wani. Referring to this violence, Zakaria said, “Pakistan strongly condemns the continuing use of force by India and violation of human rights. The brutal use of force has killed at least 80 people and at least 100 have been blinded by use of pellet guns,” he alleged.

“The prime minister is going to take up this issue very seriously at the UN platform,” the FO spokesperson added. Media reports from Pakistan confirm this, as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to forcefully bring up Kashmir at the upcoming session of UN General Assembly in New York next month.

The immediate impact of the dip in relations will be felt at the upcoming SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting, with India’s FM Arun Jaitley unlikely to attend. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh had attended the SAARC interior ministers’ meeting in Islamabad about two weeks ago, but got caught in a war of words with Pakistani counterpart Nisar Ali Khan.

(Cover Photo: Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry and S. Jaishankar)