New Delhi: India on Wednesday rejected Pakistan's proposal to hold Foreign Secretary-level talks on Kashmir and made it clear that terrorism was "central" to its relations with Islamabad.
Responding to Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry's invitation, India's Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar expressed his willingness to travel to Islamabad to discuss aspects related to cross-border terrorism which are central to the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Reportedly, while accepting the invite by Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, India has conveyed that it "rejects the self-serving allegations (of Pakistan) over Jammu and Kashmir in totality" and asserted that the northern state is an integral part of India "where Pakistan has no locus standi".
Also, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said on Wednesday night said that India's efforts to have "closer and broader" cooperation in South Asia often faced roadblocks due to "unique challenge" from Pakistan.
Blasting Pakistan, S Jaishankar said, "It (Paks) tends to use terrorism as an instrument of policy of diplomacy."
'All major iniatiatives did not fructify due to Pak'
In strong criticism of Pakistan, he said almost all major iniatiatives of India in SAARC -- be it enhancing connectivity or having deeper engagement in some other key areas -- did not fructify due to hurdles posed by Islamabad, adding terrorism is central to the problem.
The Foreign Secretary described Pakistan as a country which not only has a "different view of the region but also has an atttitude towards use of terrorism as a instrument of policy of diplomacy which makes it a difficult partner for all of us."
The Foreign Secretary was interacting with journalists at Foreign Correspondents' Club here during which he touched upon a wide range of issues including challenges on foreign policy front and India's engagement with major powers like US, Russia and China.
Talking about government's neighbourhood first policy, he said though India has been sincere in ensuring development of the region, its politics often come into play.
"While we all agree that we should move forward, it does not always go smoothly as domestic politics of our neighbours pose challenges. We have learnt to be patient and the mix of diplomacy and patience did see through difficult situations," said Jaishankar.
"The neighbourhood clearly faces unique challenge with respect of one country which is Pakistan," he said, adding the centrality of the problem is "terrorism".
'India made every effort in the last two years'
Referring to Indo-Pak ties, he said India made every effort in the last two years to improve relationship with Pakistan.
"What you have seen in the last two years is a great effort on our part to reach out to Pakistan and find common ground on many issues that face the relationship.
"The last time this was done in December when the Foreign Minister went for the Heart of Asia conference and we agreed to have comprehensive bilateral dialogue which we hoped would begin in January this year," he said, adding then Pathankot terror attack took place.
'Terrorism issue has become so central'
He said the problem is that the "terrorism issue has become so central that it makes it very difficult for the relationship as a whole to progress".
The Foreign Secrtary also talked about lack of progress in Pathankot terror attack probe and continuous cross-border infiltrations and attacks.
The Foreign Secretary spoke about India's ties with the US, Russia and China as well as with various multilateral forums, adding there has been a marked shift in New Delhi's external engagements in the last two years.
He cited completion of the Indo-Afghanistan Freindship Dam and Parliament building constructed by India in Kabul as reflection of changing approach of the government in implementing major projects abroad.
'Ties with the US, Japan, Russia and China improved significantly'
The Foreign Secretary said ties with the US, Japan, Russia and China have improved significantly, while there was speedy progress in ramping up cooperation with Africa.
"I would also accept that we have faced some challenges in the relationship recently. The visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister gave us an opportunity to revisit some of those issues.
"I think certainly, speaking from our perspective, whether a well known terroist who actually proudly accepts that he has undertaken actions against this country is sanctioned by a UN committee or not. This is not a small issue," he said.
Earlier this year, China had blocked India's effort to ban Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar by the UN.
He also made a veiled reference to China scuttling India's NSG membership bid, saying New Delhi needed to get greater access to nuclear energy, especially given its commitment at the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) climate forum.
China had scuttled India's bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) at the plenary meeting of the 48-nation grouping in June on the grounds that it was not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), evoking a strong reaction from India.