NSA talks: India restricting agenda, says Pakistan

Pakistan issued a fresh statement late on Friday night expressing 'disappointment'

New Delhi/Islamabad: Pakistan issued a fresh statement late on Friday night expressing “disappointment”, accusing India of “coming up with frivolous pretexts” and trying to restrict the dialogue agenda to only terror while also accusing it of reneging on its commitment for the second time.

While neither India nor Pakistan have called off the talks so far, the fate of the NSA talks seems to hang in the balance, with uncertainty and confusion deepening. With Mr Aziz scheduled to arrive in New Delhi on Sunday, sources indicated that the talks may not take place unless Pakistan changes its mind and reverts to the original agreed agenda for the NSA-level talks that was decided at Ufa between the two PMs. But Pakistan is unwilling to relent. Complicating matters further, Islamabad has also made it clear that it would raise the Kashmir issue during the NSA talks.

Read: India advises Pakistan against Sartaj Aziz meeting Kashmiri separatists

“Pakistan took 22 days to respond to the Indian proposal to meet in New Delhi. It then proposed an agenda that was at complete variance with what the two Prime Ministers had agreed upon in Ufa. Together, these two actions indicated its reluctance to go forward with sincerity on the agreed process. Even more significantly, without confirming either the programme or the agenda, the Pakistani High Commissioner invited Hurriyat representatives to consult with the visiting NSA. India has always held the position that there are only two stakeholders in our relationship, not three,” ministry of external affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

“The people of both countries can legitimately ask what is the force that compels Pakistan to disregard the agreements reached by two elected leaders and sabotage their implementation,” the MEA added in what appeared to be a swipe at the Pakistan Army for trying to sabotage the talks.

Read: Pakistan's invite to Kashmiri separatists is to placate domestic audience

Earlier on Friday, the MEA said, "India has advised Pakistan 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." The MEA added, "We want talks to happen. India is ready for talks. We are committed to the talks. Now it is up to them (Pakistan) ... We have made it clear to Pakistan that hosting of Kashmiri separatists will be contrary to the spirit of the Ufa understanding. We have conveyed our position on their reported meeting with them separatists) and sought clarity on the agenda."

Read: We stick to commitment at Ufa: Rajnath Singh

But in a stinging reaction, the Pakistan foreign office said in Islamabad, "The 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 ... The Hurriyat leaders are true representatives of the Kashmiri people ... Pakistan regards them as genuine stakeholders in the efforts to find a lasting solution of the Kashmir dispute." The Pakistan FO added, "India’s insistence to introduce conditionalities 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."

Read: No redlines in diplomacy and politics, says Hurriyat Conference

But the MEA hit back, saying, "The statement by the government of Pakistan today on the NSA-level talks with India does not come as a surprise. There has been a pattern to Pakistan’s actions after the Ufa Summit and today’s position is a culmination of that approach. 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 tranquillity on the border. Instead, we saw a sharp increase in 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."

Read: CPI for continuation of Indo-Pak dialogue

Speculation was rife that the PDP-led J&K state government has refused to detain or arrest the Hurriyat leaders in Srinagar following which they may be detained once they land in Delhi for the proposed meeting. Top government sources said the Modi government will not allow Hurriyat leaders to meet Mr Aziz. If some Hurriyat leaders insist on the meeting, they may be detained at Delhi, sources said. Central agencies are keeping a close watch and detention orders may be issued for the separatist leaders if they land in Delhi, a source said. Hurriyat hardline leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and "moderate" Hurriyat leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Shabbir Ahmed Shah are among the invitees.

In Islamabad, a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif was held. "The leaders termed India’s demand not to meet Kashmiri leaders as unacceptable. It was decided by the political and military leadership that Pakistan would take Hurriyat leaders into complete confidence over the talks with India," said a Pakistani official in Islamabad. In August last year, India had cancelled the then-proposed India-Pakistan foreign secretary-level talks, protesting against a similar Pakistan high commission invitation to Hurriyat leaders.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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