The war of words between India and Pakistan has escalated with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar set to host his counterpart from the neighbouring country Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Goa next week.

Jaishankar, himself, on Saturday once again accused Pakistan of exporting terrorism to India. The Pakistan Army chief, Gen Asim Munir, on the other hand, tacitly hit out at India as he said that his nation would continue to “firmly stand” with the Kashmiris in “their historic struggle for basic human rights and their legitimate quest for the right to self-determination”.

“We will continue to provide political, moral and diplomatic support to our Kashmiri brothers,” Gen Munir said, while speaking at a passing-out ceremony at the Pakistan Military Academy near Abottabad, nearly 155 kilometres away from Islamabad. He added that the international community should realise that without a “just and peaceful resolution” to the issue of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, regional peace would forever remain elusive. His comment is likely to raise hackles in New Delhi.

Though Bilawal is expected to attend the SCO meeting to be hosted by Jaishankar in Goa on May 4 and 5, the killing of five soldiers in a recent terrorist attack on the Rashtriya Rifles personnel at Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir diminished the possibility of a bilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan on the sideline of the conclave.

The two neighbouring nations had their last bilateral ministerial engagement in December 2015.

Jaishankar chose a speech delivered at Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, to once again accuse Pakistan of sponsoring cross-border terrorism targeting India. He said that the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy of the Government of India for generously supporting the development journeys of the country’s smaller neighbours with a non-reciprocal approach resulted in an increase in cooperation and connectivity in the region. “The only exception is Pakistan due to its encouragement of cross-border terrorism (against India),” said Jaishankar, who was on a visit to the Dominican Republic.

It was the second time in a week that he targeted Pakistan for its support to terrorism against India. “It is for us very difficult to engage with a neighbour who practices cross-border terrorism against us,” he had said in Panama City earlier this week.

Though Bilawal’s proposed visit to attend the SCO meeting in Goa fuelled speculation about his bilateral meeting with Jaishankar, New Delhi apparently sent out a message to Islamabad with repeated comments of the external affairs minister slamming Pakistan on the issue of terrorism against India.

Gen Munir on Saturday also sought to allay the doubts over the military prowess of the Pakistan Army. “We have the will, capability and capacity to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity and we are well aware of the ways and means to do it,” he said, apparently trying to set at rest speculation triggered by media reports that suggested that his predecessor Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had believed that Pakistan had lacked in military capability and economic strength to fight against India.