The much-hyped August 24 talks between National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan remained clouded by uncertainty with both sides setting up stiff conditions and the focus shifting from terror agenda to participation of the separatist leaders as a third party in the dialogue. Pakistan also wants to discuss the Kashmir issue, which has been firmly rejected by India.
The situation took a turn for the worse on Friday with both sides accusing each other of derailing the talks. Pakistan is trying to embarrass the Modi government by scheduling the meeting between hardliner separatist leader Syed Shah Geelani at 9.p.m on Monday, ahead of the Pak NSA meeting with his India counterpart.
Now, India is left with no option but to prevent the separatist leaders from reaching Delhi by detaining them in Srinagar itself. On Thursday, the separatist leaders were briefly detained in Srinagar. If the Separatist were not allowed to meet with Aziz, Paksitan is likely to use it as an excuse to call off the talks since it does not want to confront dossiers which New Delhi is preparing to submit to Aziz on his Government and army’s activities support to terror activities.
The agenda of the talks also remained a point of serious contention. As per the agreement reached between India Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pak premier Nawaz Sharif in Ufa in Russia on July 10, the talks between the two NSA were to be focused on terrorism, but Pakistan has now said Kashmir will also be part of the dialogue.
“India has advised Pakistan yesterday ( Thursday) that it would not be appropriate for Mr. Sartaj Aziz to meet with Hurriyat representatives during his visit to India as it would not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Ufa understanding to jointly work to combat terrorism. We have also sought confirmation of our understanding of the agenda for the NSA-level talks that was conveyed to the Pakistani side on 18 August 2015.”
– Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup.
But Pakistan insisted the meeting between Aziz and separatist leaders will go ahead. “The NSA (Aziz) will meet some Hurriyat leaders on Sunday evening and Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Monday morning at 9.30 am before the NSA level talks begin,” a Pakistan official was quoted as saying. Pakistan has also conveyed to India that it would like to discuss all `outstanding issues’, including that of Kashmir, something which India has strongly rejected.
While Pakistan justified Aziz’s proposed meeting with the separatist leaders saying such meeting were part of a long tradition, but he forgot that India called off the secretary level talks with Pakistan last year in August over similar insistence by Pakistan.
“It has been conveyed to the Indian High Commissioner that it would not be possible for Pakistan to accept this advice. Pakistani leadership has always interacted with the Kashmir/Hurriyat leadership, during their visits to India. Pakistan sees no reason to depart from this established past practice… India’s insistence to introduce conditionality’s and restrict the agenda for the dialogue, demonstrates a lack of seriousness on India’s part to meaningfully engage with Pakistan. For its part, Pakistan remains willing to attend the NSAs meeting without any pre-conditions.”
– Pakistan Foreign office in Islamabad said in a statement.
India promptly rejected this contention with the MEA spokesperson Swarup saying: ”The Pakistan government’s response on the NSA level talks with India does not come as a surprise as there has been a pattern to its actions after the Ufa Summit and the latest position is a culmination of that approach. We took the initiative to engage at Ufa. But, unilateral imposition of new conditions and distortion of the agreed agenda cannot be the basis for going forward”.
The MEA spokesperson reminded that at Ufa, the two Prime Ministers agreed on a meeting of the NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism as well as ensure peace and tranquility on the border. Instead, we saw a sharp increase in the unprovoked firings from the Pakistani side and some serious cross border terrorist incidents. The last one, at Udhampur, resulted in the capture alive of a Pakistani national, a matter that would have naturally come up in the NSA level talks on terrorism, to Pakistan’s discomfort, he said.
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh too asserted that India will stick to the commitment between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa to engage in a substantive discussion on terrorism.
“We are firm on our stand that whatever talks, dialogue are held with Pakistan, that should only and only be on terrorism,” Singh said in Lucknow while adding that talks and terrorism can never go together. While another BJP leader said that any meeting of Pakistan NSA with separatist leaders is just “recreation” which can take place later.
The joint statement by India-Pak foreign statement on July 10 at Ufa –
- A meeting in New Delhi between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.
- Early meetings of DG BSF and DG Pakistan Rangers followed by that of DGMOs.
- Decision for release of fishermen in each other’s custody, along with their boats, within a period of 15 days.
- Mechanism for facilitating religious tourism.
- Discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples.
Below is a Press Release from Pakistan’s External Affairs Ministry office –
After doing everything possible to derail the Indo-Pak talk , the Nawaz Sharif regime has said it was deeply disappointed at the statement of the Spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, putting forth pre-conditions for official talks to take place at the level of the National Security Advisors.
In late night press release, office of the Pakistan Spokesperson said it was the second time that India has chosen to go back on a decision mutually agreed upon between the two Prime Ministers, to engage in a comprehensive dialogue, by coming up with frivolous pretexts.
“Tension between the two countries had increased alarmingly as a result of frequent violations on the Line of Control and Working Boundary, in the past months. The need of the hour was for the two countries to engage in sincere and serious dialogue to immediately reduce tensions and to undertake the task of normalization of relations, with sincerity and seriousness,” it said..
The release said that Pakistan High Commissioner’s invitation to the Kashmiri Hurriyat leadership to a reception in honour of the Adviser on 23 August, was very much in keeping with the practice and tradition of the past many years. Pakistan sees no reason to depart from this established practice. After all, the Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders are genuine stakeholders in efforts to find a lasting solution of the Kashmir dispute. For India to refuse to engage in talks with Pakistan on this pretext, is a repeat of what it did when it cancelled the Foreign Secretary level talks that were scheduled to be held on 25 August last year, pursuant to the meeting between the two Prime Ministers in Delhi in May 2014, it said..
“For the NSA talks in Delhi, Pakistan had proposed a comprehensive agenda, consistent with the decisions taken by the two Prime Ministers in Ufa, which included discussion on all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, as well as terrorism related matters, and other issues such as religious tourism, release of fishermen and peace and tranquility on the LoC. However, regrettably, the Indian side’s desire to restrict the agenda to terrorism related issues only, amounts to a negation of the decisions taken by the two Prime Ministers.
“It is not Pakistan that has placed any condition for the talks. In fact, Pakistan has always demonstrated its belief in the dialogue process and is prepared to engage in meaningful talks with India, to resolve all outstanding issues that have bedeviled relations between the two countries, for the past many decades.”
The spokesperson said Pakistan did not disregard agreements or understandings, but it was is the Indian side which reneged on commitments agreed upon between the two Heads of Government in the past year.
“Pakistan wishes to reiterate its abiding commitment to promoting a relationship of cordiality and cooperation with all its neighbors, including India, in pursuance of the Prime Minister’s vision of a peaceful neighborhood.” It said…
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