Delhi Draws Line, NSA Talks In Limbo

21 August 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
KV Prasad

New Delhi: India on Friday rejected unilateral imposition of conditions by Pakistan insisting on holding talks with Hurriyat leadership, leaving a big question mark on the fate of the scheduled August 23-24 bilateral National Security Advisers-level talks. On a day of swift counters, India saw the condition as a departure from the understanding reached at Ufa that agreed the NSAs would discuss all issues connected to terrorism, an agenda set for them by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif. 'India remains committed to discussing issues with Pakistan peacefully and bilaterally. In fact, 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,' External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said. Later in the evening, Pakistan Foreign Office expressed 'deep disappointment' over it stating that Islamabad did not place any condition for the talks. It accused India of falling back while justifying discussions with the Hurriyat leaders who it said were 'genuine stakeholders in finding efforts to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir dispute'. New Delhi also sought to subtly underscore that the civilian leadership in Pakistan was being subjected to dictates of the military leadership there, stating: 'People of both countries can legitimately ask today: What is the force that compels Pakistan to disregard the agreements reached by two elected leaders and sabotage their implementation.' The statement led to interpretation whether India, yet again, walked away from official-level engagement with Pakistan, but the thought process in the South Block is to force Islamabad take a final call instead of New Delhi making the first move. India also sought to apportion the blame on to Pakistan saying there had been a pattern to Pakistan's action after the Ufa summit and 'today's position is a culmination of that approach'. The talks between NSA Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz is scheduled for August 23-24 and the invitation from Islamabad to separatist Kashmiri leaders for a meeting set off a chain of events. A similar move last year in August resulted in New Delhi cancelling the Foreign Secretary-level talks and it took the Ufa summit to promise restarting the stalled process of dialogue. 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 of a Pakistan national, a matter that would have naturally come up in the NSA-level talks on terrorism, to Pakistan's discomfort,' the spokesperson said. Insofar as the talks are concerned, 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, the spokesperson said. '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 Pakistan High Commissioner invited Hurriyat representatives to consult with the visiting NSA. This provocative action was completely in consonance with Pakistan's desire to evade its commitment at Ufa to engage in a substantive discussion on terrorism,' Swarup said. The Ufa understanding on the talks - read out jointly by the two Foreign Secretaries - was very clear: the NSAs were to meet to discuss all issues connected to terrorism. This was the only agenda set for them by the two Prime Ministers. The insistence on meeting Hurriyat as a precondition is also a complete departure from the Ufa understanding. India has always held the position that there are only two stake holders in our relationship, not three. Resume talks: UN chief As the proposed talks between the NSAs of India and Pakistan appeared deadlocked, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called on the two sides 'to return to dialogue' in the interest of their people and exercise maximum restraint. Will go by agreement on terror talks: Rajnath We are firm on our stand that whatever talks that take place with Pakistan should only and only be on terrorism... We stick to commitment between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa to engage in a substantive discussion on terrorism. - Rajnath Singh, Home Minister