NEW DELHI - India’s Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said Pakistan must make a ‘conscious choice of peace’ and decide whether it wants to talk to the Indian government or the Hurriyat leaders.

India, he said, was ‘ready to speak to Pakistan’ and is ‘willing to normalise the relationship’ but “then there are a few red lines”.

“We create the environment, we fix up a dialogue at the level of foreign secretaries, our foreign secretary is to visit Pakistan (and) literally a few hours before that they invite the separatists for a dialogue to their high commission (in New Delhi).”

“So I think a new red line has to be drawn in Pakistan to reconsider this question that who they want to speak to? Do they want to speak to the government of India or they want to speak to those who want to break India,” he said at the India Economic Summit here. “So unless Pakistan makes the conscious choice, a dialogue with Pakistan will not be possible,” he said.

India in August called off scheduled foreign secretary-level talks after Pakistan’s envoy met Hurriyat leaders on the eve of the dialogue.

Referring to alleged ceasefire violations by Pakistan on the Line of Control, he said the consequences of its ‘misadventure’ like firing on civilian population and uprooting of village, “would be an unaffordable cost for Pakistan.”

“Hostilities are mounted at the International Border and at the Line of Control. Now, traditionally when such hostilities are mounted, we have been defending ourselves.” “We invited the head of the government, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony, which was a very important signal,” Union Defence Minister Arun Jaitley told those assembled at the World Economic Forum Summit.

“It has never been the stand of the Government of India not to speak to Pakistan. But at what level you speak and when do you speak, the environment for a dialogue and the level at which the dialogue takes place has to be entirely set by Pakistan,” he added.


AFP adds: Hundreds of angry protesters clashed with police in Indian Held Kashmir on Tuesday, a day after soldiers shot dead two civilians, police said.

Police in the main city of Srinagar fired tear gas to disperse crowds of protesters chanting anti-India slogans and hurling rocks, an officer told AFP on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The protests came after soldiers fired at a private car on the outskirts of Srinagar on Monday killing two passengers and critically wounding another two.

Held Kashmir’s puppet Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said the “avoidable deaths” had marred the political atmosphere, already strained by devastating floods in September, ahead of state elections due to start later this month.

“Such killings have no place in an otherwise improving security environment where ‘militancy’-related incidents are at record low levels,” Abdullah tweeted.

Kashmiri leaders opposed to Indian rule have called for a strike on Wednesday to protest against the killings.

Police registered a criminal case against the soldiers, while the army ordered an enquiry into what it called the “unfortunate loss of lives.”

“Nothing incriminating was found from the possession of slain or injured youth,” police officer Muhammad Irshad told Greater Kashmir, a local daily.

The two victims were buried on Tuesday as Shiia Muslims marked Ashura, traditionally a flashpoint day in Indian Held Kashmir.

The traditional mourning procession has been banned in the state since 1990 when an armed rebellion against Indian rule broke out.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, but both claim the region in full.

Tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, have died in fighting between Indian forces and a dozen Kashmiri groups seeking independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.

Kashmir is still reeling from devastating floods that killed more than 200 people and destroyed public infrastructure and businesses in September.