Islamabad - Indian High Commissioner TCA Raghavan said yesterday his country will discuss only the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan in the bilateral peace talks.

The Indian high commissioner made these remarks during his lecture at the Islamabad-based think tank, Center for Research & Security Studies, claiming that Pakistan-controlled Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is part of India.

“When you say what is it that India is going to discuss or what is it discussing, it is really – if you ask most Indians, and what is our position according to article 370 of our constitution – the part of that state which is still under the control of Pakistan.”

Raghavan said it was India which first petitioned the United Nations to intervene when the-then princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was invaded by Pakistani forces in 1947.

“The first application was moved by India and it was on the grounds that a part of the state, which had acceded to India, is now under the illegal occupation of the Pakistan army”, he said.

Pakistan and India agreed to resume a comprehensive dialogue process on all issues including Kashmir last week and the foreign secretaries of the two countries will formally meet next month to prioritise the agenda for the future talks.

Raghavan’s remarks have met with strong criticism from the Pakistani diplomatic and other officials, who have vehemently disputed the allegation.

Pakistan stands for the right of self-determination of the Kashmiris, the officials said and added that it is the Indian military that has oppressed the voice of independence in the parts of Kashmir it controls.

The remarks by Indian High Commissioner have come at a time when there is a forward push to resume the bilateral talks between the two estranged neighbours.

Diplomatic circles have expressed apprehension that these remarks could prove to be a major setback to the efforts towards revival of talks. Terming them “irresponsible” and “inaccurate”, Pakistani official sources said they hoped Indian officials will refrain from making such contentious statements in the future if they want to make the dialogue process meaningful and result-oriented.

Political analyst Badar Alam told AFP: “I think it is a step back,” adding that Kashmir was viewed internationally as a disputed territory. He added that given the fragile state of the dialogue, officials on both sides needed to tread “very cautiously and very carefully” to avoid a backlash.

Agencies add:Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday however told Parliament in New Delhi, “Whenever we talk, it is based on trust.” She said the intent would be to have an “uninterrupted” dialogue process despite provocations by the “saboteurs”.

Sushma was replying to lawmakers in the Lok Sabha who wanted to know if India can trust Pakistan again. “When we have decided there will be no third party mediation, we will need to talk to each other,” she said.

She said “continued estrangement” between the two sides has been hampering peace and prosperity in the region, which is a shared vision of the two countries.

A number of Lok Sabha members asked the minister to clarify Indian government’s stance on terrorism.

Pakistan has assured India it will expedite the Mumbai terror attacks case, Sushma said in her statement in both houses of parliament. The case is being heard in anti-terrorism court in Islamabad, she added.

Her visit to Islamabad last week, she said, will be followed by ‘Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue’ with Pakistan. The process will explore cooperation in trade and connectivity, people-to-people exchanges and humanitarian issues. “The new dialogue, we sincerely hope, marks a new beginning also for peace and development in the whole region,” she said.

To demands by some members for assurance that the dialogue process will be “uninterruptable”, she said, “It never works like that. We would like not to get provoked by the saboteurs, who want to stall the dialogue somehow, and will try to find a way forward through the dialogue. This will be our intent.”