Pakistan Invites Hurriyat, But Govt Finds A Way To Save NSA Talks

19 August 2015
Times of India
M Saleem Pandit, Sachin Parashar & Indrani Bagchi

Srinagar: Keen not to spurn the opportunity to confront Pakistan with evidence of its continued complicity in terrorism against India, the government has found a way around Islamabad's latest manoeuvre to scupper the NSA-level talks. In a fresh provocation, Pakistan on Wednesday invited separatist Hurriyat leaders to a meeting with its NSA, Sartaj Aziz, in Delhi - a red rag to the Indian side which had cancelled a scheduled meeting of foreign secretaries last year for precisely the same reason. On Wednesday, however, India reacted differently as it leaned on veteran Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani not to meet Aziz before talks with his Indian counterpart A K Doval. The Pakistan high commission had arranged for Geelani and other separatist leaders like Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Shabbir Shah to meet Aziz on Sunday - a schedule, official sources suspect, deliberately designed to queer the pitch for talks. Hurriyat sources in Srinagar confirmed that Geelani has heeded New Delhi's persuasion that he come to Delhi on Monday and meet Aziz after his talks with Doval. The move was considered necessary for rescuing the NSA talks which India wants to use to confront Pakistan with what it insists on calling 'irrefutable' evidence of the involvement of Pakistani agencies in terrorism directed at India. Pakistan has piled on provocations in the past month since the Ufa agreement hoping to get India to call off the NSA talks scheduled for Monday. A meeting between Aziz and Geelani would have breached the red line which India drew last year by calling off the foreign secretary-level talks. A reversal of the tough stand would have entailed an embarrassment with Congress already taunting the government for inconsistency. High-level sources in the government defended the decision as well as the effort not to let Pakistan slither out of its commitment to talk on terrorism. Signalling India's determination to go ahead with the talks on terror, a top level source said, 'Talks and terror may not go together but talks on terror can happen.' The Pakistan high commission has invited the Hurriyat leadership to a dinner on Sunday, the day Aziz comes to Delhi. It is believed moderate Hurriyat leaders like Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Shabbir Shah may attend the dinner. But the real Hurriyat leader, Geelani, will only come on Monday. Since Ufa, when Pakistan agreed to NSA-level talks on terrorism, violence on the LoC and the international border has gone up exponentially, with two big terror incidents - in Gurdaspur and Udhampur - seriously testing India's resolve to go ahead with the talks. Security sources said Pakistan firing with heavy mortar on the LoC was always seen as being directly ordered by the army. This has increased enormously in the past few days. Senior government sources said they believe several sections in Pakistan opposed the Ufa understanding and did not want the Nawaz Sharif government to agree to anything less than foreign secretary talks on all issues. India was equally insistent on holding talks on terrorism and border security. But unwilling to be seen to be the one to break off the talks, Pakistan has ratcheted up violence and rhetoric hoping to get India to call off the talks. On Tuesday, Indian deputy high commissioner to Pakistan J P Singh was called in by the director general (South Asia and SAARC) to protest against 'unprovoked ceasefire violations' by Indian troops in Harpal sector in which a Pakistani civilian was killed, Pakistan foreign ministry said in a press release.