NEW DELHI—India on Monday canceled planned talks with Pakistan, derailing the latest effort at rapprochement between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
The Indian Foreign Ministry said it wouldn’t take part in discussions set for next week after Pakistan’s envoy in India met with separatist leaders from Jammu and Kashmir, an Indian state also claimed by Pakistan.
India’s foreign secretary told the Pakistani envoy “that Pakistan’s continued efforts to interfere in India’s internal affairs were unacceptable,” said Syed Akbaruddin, the Foreign Ministry spokesman. “Under the present circumstances, it is felt that no useful purpose will be served” by a meeting between the two sides.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it was “a long-standing practice” for its officials to meet with “Kashmiri leaders” before talks with India in order to “facilitate meaningful discussions on the issue of Kashmir.”
“The Indian decision is a setback to the efforts by our leadership to promote good neighborly relations with India,” it said in a statement.
Relations between India and Pakistan, a close ally of neighboring China, have a major impact on regional stability and security. Deep-rooted suspicion between the two has also stymied attempts at achieving greater economic integration and better connectivity in and around South Asia.
This month has seen a sharp increase in violations of a 2003 cease-fire agreement aimed at reducing cross-border hostilities.
India’s foreign secretary was to have traveled to Islamabad next week to meet her Pakistani counterpart in an effort to “look at the way forward” in the strained bilateral relationship.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised hopes of a fresh start in relations when he invited the Pakistani premier, Nawaz Sharif, to his swearing-in ceremony in May.
But last week, on a visit to Kashmir, Mr. Modi sparked a war of words, saying Pakistan, too weak to fight a conventional war, was using terror groups to wage a “proxy war against India.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry the next day denounced Mr. Modi’s criticism as “baseless rhetoric,” saying “instead of engaging in a blame game, the two countries should focus on resolving all issues through dialogue.”
Indians responded saying “mere denials or selective approaches toward terrorism” by Pakistan wouldn’t assuage Indian concerns about what it sees as backing from Islamabad for Islamic terror attacks on Indian soil.
Mr. Akbaruddin, the Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Monday that India had told Pakistan’s envoy his meeting with separatist leaders wouldn’t be acceptable to India. The envoy’s decision to go ahead makes Islamabad’s intentions “quite clear,” Mr. Akbaruddin said.
“There is no point in having talks when Pakistan is being provocative in this manner,” said Radha Kumar, director-general of the Delhi Policy Group and one of three interlocutors appointed by the Indian government in 2010 to draw a road map for peace in Kashmir. “Both countries need to stick to some ground rules.”
India has long faced a conflict in Kashmir where different groups have been fighting for separation from India. During the fiercest years of an insurgency in the 1990s, New Delhi accused Pakistan of training and financing thousands of militants to infiltrate Indian-held Kashmir. Pakistan denies the allegations.
Sreeram Chaulia, a professor at the Jindal School of International Affairs, said India’s decision to cancel the talks was a “very strong message” to Pakistan that it will not “just give these incidents a go-by anymore.”