India dumps Pakistan dialogue, foreign secretary-level talks cancelled
Pak envoy meet with J&K separatists is breaking point
New Delhi: Sending a tough message to Pakistan, India on Monday called off the August 25 foreign secretary-level talks in Islamabad, in what is being viewed as a direct fallout of Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit’s invitation to the separatist Hurriyat leaders for a dialogue.
Top government sources said foreign secretary Sujatha Singh called up the high commissioner just after his meeting with Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah,
saying “in clear and unambiguous terms that Pakistan’s continued efforts to interfere in India’s internal affairs were unacceptable.”
Prior to the Pakistani diplomat’s meeting with the separatist leader, the Indian foreign secretary had told him they could either have a dialogue with the Indian government or with the separatists, but Mr Basit went ahead with the meeting. Sources said this left the government with no option but to cancel the talks that were due to resume after a gap of two years.
The external affairs ministry also said the Pakistan high commissioner’s meeting undermined the constructive diplomatic engagement initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sources said the decision to cancel the talks was taken after hectic deliberations between the MEA and the Prime Minister’s Office. Sources said national security adviser A.K. Doval was of the view that a terse message needed to be sent to Pakistan that talks could not be held if it kept interfering in India’s domestic matters, including talking to the Hurriyat leaders.
“Therefore, under the present circumstances, no useful purpose will be served by the Indian foreign secretary going to Islamabad next week. Indian foreign secretary had conveyed to the Pakistan high commissioner today, in clear and unambiguous terms, that Pakistan’s continued efforts to interfere in India’s internal affairs were unacceptable.
It was underlined that the Pakistan high commissioner’s meetings with these so-called leaders of the Hurriyat undermines the constructive diplomatic engagement initiated by Prime Minister Modi in May on his very first day in office,” MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.
“At a time when serious initiatives are being undertaken by the Indian government to move bilateral ties forward, including towards the resumption of a regular dialogue process, the invitation to so-called leaders of the Hurriyat by Pakistan’s high commissioner does indeed raise questions about Pakistan’s sincerity, and shows that its negative approaches and attempts to interfere in India’s internal affairs continue unabated,” the spokesman said.
India’s snub came on a day when Mr Basit had a meeting with Mr Shah, the first of a series of meetings planned with separatist leaders from the Kashmir Valley over the next two days.
Government sources said the decision to call off the talks are also likely to have an impact on the proposed meeting between Prime Minster Narendra Modi and Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on September 25 in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. The foreign secretaries were to prepare the roadmap for the Modi-Sharif meeting as well.
India’s stated position is that the only path available to Pakistan is to resolve all outstanding issues through a peaceful bilateral dialogue within the framework and principles of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.
The BJP welcomed the government’s decision to call off the talks. While India wants good ties with its neighbours and had made a new beginning by inviting Mr Sharif and other heads of Saarc countries at Mr Modi’s swearing-in, it will not allow any interference in its internal matters, BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma said.
The Congress came down heavily on the government, accusing it of following an “opaque and incoherent” foreign policy vis-a-vis Pakistan, and sending “confused signals” to the nation.
Spokesman Anand Sharma called it “theatrics” and asked Mr Modi to explain why the talks were initiated in the first place given that there was “no progress” from the Pakistan side on acting against terror. “The question is not about calling off the talks. The question to be asked is why the talks were agreed to in the first place,” he said.
Kashmiri separatists expressed surprise over India’s decision to cancel the foreign secretary-level talks, saying it was “unfortunate” and would only ensure the standoff between the two countries continued.
Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said the decision was “very, very unfortunate as we expected that the process of dialogue had opened and both the governments in India and Pakistan will work together for resolving the Kashmir issue”.
The Mirwaiz said there was no harm in the separatists meeting the Pakistani envoy. “We only convey our views and this is not the first time such an exercise has been conducted. Such meetings had taken place during the tenure of Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh as Prime Ministers. So what is the hue and cry about this time?” he said.
JKLF chief Yaseen Malik also expressed surprise over India’s decision, and said “it is most unfortunate”. He added: “After many years of chill, we expected some warmth in relations between the two countries.”
Democratic Freedom Party leader Shabir Shah, who met Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit on Monday, said the decision to cancel talks did not augur well for the subcontinent. “We expected Prime Minister Narendra Modi was willing to solve all issues, including Kashmir. His move to invite Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif for his oath-taking, which was responded to with equal enthusiasm, was seen as a silver lining in the dark clouds over Kashmir. But this move of cancelling talks will only contribute to confusion,” he said.
( Source : dc correspondent )