Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup addressed a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday and said that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would not be attending the Heart of Asia Conference scheduled to take place on December 3 and 4 in Amritsar in Punjab owing to her ill-health.
Swarup said that the consistent ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir were in violation of the agreement signed in 2003. The government, he added, had also protested against the Pakistan Army targeting 18 villages along the LoC between November 16 and 21.
"At this point of time, I can only say that the external affairs minister will not be attending the Heart of Asia. But the programme is still evolving... I am not in a position to confirm any other thing or make any announcement. Next week, we will be doing a curtain raiser on the Heart of Asia. Hopefully, if more information is available by then, we will share it with the media," Swarup said while addressing the press conference.
Swarup also spoke about the ceasefire violations being carried out by Pakistan along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
"Despite calls for restraint, Pakistani forces committed 27 ceasefire violations between November 16 and 21 by resorting to calibre escalation and employing artillery and 120 mm heavy mortars against Indian posts.These violent acts constitute a clear violation of the ceasefire agreement of 2003," Swarup said.
He added: "The government conveyed that it strongly deplored the tacit support of the Pakistan Army to arm terrorists that came from close to Pakistan army posts on November 22 targeting an Indian patrol near the LoC in Machhal sector... and killing three indian soldiers including the inhuman mutilation of the body of one of them. The government also protested the deliberate targeting by the Pakistan Army of 18 villages along the LoC during the period November 16 and 21."
"Internationalising Kashmir issue has borne no fruit. Pakistan would be advised to first end state support to terror," Swarup said while addressing the media.
He added that the government had conveyed to Pakistan its concerns "at continued attempts to infiltrate armed terrorists from across LoC." There have been 15 instances of ceasefire violations in the last week.
"Talks and terror can't go together. The environment has to be terror free for talks to take place," Swarup said. He also "categorically" rejected allegations that India has denied overflight clearance to Pakistan.
When asked whether bilateral talks with Pakistan Prime Minister's Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz will take place at the conference, Swarup said that the government was not in a position to confirm anything at this point.
He also added that India expected an "early repatriation and safe return of Sepoy Chandu Babulal Chavan, who inadvertently crossed the LoC over 7 weeks ago."
Pakistan had, on Wednesday, confirmed its participation in the Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar saying that Aziz would be attending the event.
"We have received an official confirmation from Pakistan that Aziz would be attending the HoA conference on Afghanistan," Swarup had said.
Swarup also confirmed that the foreign secretary met with senior members of President-Elect Donald Trump's transition team.
The conference, in which over 40 countries will participate, is supposed to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
The Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process was established in November 2011 to provide a platform to countries to discuss regional issues and encourage security, political, and economic cooperation among Afghanistan and its neighbours. The US, along with more than 20 other countries, serve as "supporting nations" to the process.