ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's Prime Minister on Tuesday ruled out talks with neighboring nuclear-rival India, saying they cannot happen until New Delhi restores the semi-autonomous status of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Imran Khan's remarks were apparently meant to suppress recent speculation of secret talks between the two sides. They were fueled by local media reports claiming that secret Pakistan-India negotiations had resulted in the February announcement when the two sides pledged to adhere to a 2003 cease-fire agreement on the divided Kashmir.
Since then, Pakistan's opposition had demanded Khan publicly explain his policy on India and state whether his government was engaged in any secret talks on the divided region. Kashmir is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety. The two sides have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
Khan was responding to a question in a live tele-chat dubbed “Prime Minister On Call With You.” He said he wanted to assure the Kashmiri people that there will be no talks between Pakistan and India until New Delhi reverses a 2019 step under which Kashmir was stripped of its semi-autonomy status. India's move to take direct control of the Indian-administered sector of Kashmir sparked unrest.
There was no immediate comment from India.
Though there have been no public talks, the militaries of Pakistan and India in February pledged to adhere to a 2003 cease-fire agreement. It remained a mystery how the announcement came about until the United Arab Emirates acknowledged it played a role in getting the two sides to agree to the truce amid escalating tensions. Since then, the cease-fire has largely been holding.