Pakistan on Wednesday officially confirmed to India that its top diplomat will attend a global conference on Afghanistan in Amritsar early next month amid intensifying deadly military tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Islamabad confirmed that Sartaj Aziz, foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, would visit India for the December 3-4 Heart of Asia Istanbul Process event.
The conference on development and security in Afghanistan is likely to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Aziz said last week that he would go to India. But Swarup pointed out then that India had received no official confirmation from Pakistan about it.
The de facto foreign policy chief’s participation in the Afghanistan conference comes amid heightened border and diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
On Tuesday, three Indian soldiers were killed on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. India vowed revenge after one of the bodies of the soldiers was found mutilated at the de facto border in the Kashmir Valley. Pakistan rejected the allegation as “baseless”.
The border tension continued on Wednesday with Pakistan alleging that at least nine persons were killed when cross-border shelling from India hit a passenger bus in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
“At least nine people have been killed and seven wounded,” Speaker of Pakistani Kashmir’s Assembly Shah Ghulam Qadir said, accusing the Indian Army of “deliberately targeting” civilians.
The bus, according to Qadir, was hit as it was travelling from Kel to Muzaffarabad in the Neelum valley region of divided Kashmir.
On this side, the Indian Army said cross-border firing at various places on the LoC continued for hours on Wednesday and three Border Security Forces (BSF) troopers were injured.
Firing exchanges and a bitter diplomatic war between the two neighbours have continued and grown after the September 18 killing of 19 Indian soldiers in a terror attack at a border military base in Kashmir.
The attack was followed by a military surgical strike on terror launch pads by Indian commandos in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in which an unknown number of terrorists and their sympathizers were killed.
Since then, at least 18 Indian soldiers – 13 army and five BSF men – have been killed in cross-border firing.
Pakistan has also claimed that dozens of its civilians and soldiers had been killed in the firing.
The two countries upped their diplomatic war on Wednesday with Pakistan forming a committee “to counter India’s propaganda campaign” that will also reach out to Indians “opposed to Narendra Modi’s extremism”.
The initiative is said to be Aziz’s brainchild. “Our missions abroad, including in New Delhi, are making outreach efforts to emphasise the extremist Indian policies,” Dawn newspaper quoted Aziz as saying.
In New Delhi, an ailing External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply that Pakistan had made a “crude attempt” to tarnish India’s image by leveling spying allegations against Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad.
Pakistan earlier in November named eight officials of the mission and alleged they were working for the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) or the Intelligence Bureau of India.
“The manner in which their names and photographs were prominently published in Pakistani media along with baseless allegation Â… is against the Vienna Convention and also violates the norms of established diplomatic practice,” Sushma Swaraj said.