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US, China call for direct Indo-Pak talks

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WASHINGTON: The United States and China urged India and Pakistan to hold direct talks on recent missile incident and other issues for reducing tensions between the two nuclear-armed nations.

“We continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on issues of concern,” said a US State Department official when asked if the United States would urge India and Pakistan to hold direct talks.

Earlier on Monday, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry supported Pakistan’s demand for a joint probe into the incident and emphasised the need for direct talks between the two neighbours on all issues.

“We called on relevant countries to have dialogue and communication as soon as possible and launch a thorough investigation into this incident,” spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing.

He also urged India and Pakistan to “strengthen information sharing and establish a notification mechanism in time to avoid the recurrence of such incidents and to prevent miscalculation”.

The Chinese official said that Pakistan and India were “both important countries in South Asia, bearing responsibilities for maintaining regional security and stability”. India acknowledged earlier this week that on March 9, 2022, “a technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile” into Pakistani territory.

Pakistan, however, said that it was not satisfied with New Delhi’s “simplistic explanation” and demanded a joint probe to establish the facts surrounding the incident.

An Indian media report said that an unarmed, practice-version of the BrahMos supersonic missile was accidentally fired into Pakistan during an inspection at a secret satellite base of the Indian Air Force.

Quoting sources in the Indian defence ministry, the report claimed that the missile followed the trajectory that it would have in case of a conflict, but “certain factors” played a role in ensuring that any pre-fed target was out of danger.

The report said that since it was “a practice missile”, it had no warheads. The report also claimed that India informed Pakistan about this “accidental firing” soon after it happened. Pakistan, however, says that India failed to immediately inform Islamabad about the accidental launch, and waited until after the Inter-Services Public Relations announced the incident and sought clarification from New Delhi.

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