Pakistan Cries Off Pre-midnight Deadline, Plays Kashmir-card To Wriggle Out Of Talks

22 August 2015
Times of India
Omer Farooq Khan & Sachin Parashar

New Delhi: The jinxed India- Pakistan NSA-level talks on terror finally collapsed on Saturday evening, with Islamabad pulling out of the engagement alleging that India had 'unilaterally' killed the dialogue by imposing pre-conditions: a charge which was promptly rejected by New Delhi. In a late evening announcement, Pakistani officials said its NSA Sartaz Aziz will not travel to New Delhi to meet his Indian counterpart A K Doval on Monday, blaming India's insistence that talks remained limited to terrorism and that Hurriyat could not be recognized as a 'stakeholder' in the engagement. India responded by saying it was Pakistan's decision and that it was unfortunate. It also rejected the charge that it had imposed any new condition, saying that Ufa formulation was unambiguous that the NSA-level talks will be on the issue of terrorism. Pakistan's reluctance to go ahead with the talks was seen by the Indian side as a reflection of Islamabad's concern that its links to the terror attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur and the capture of Faisalabad resident Naveed would figure prominently in the discussions. The day started with Aziz declaring to media in Islamabad that Pakistan was determined to discuss Kashmir, coming up with an interpretation of the Ufa statement which the Indian side rejected as completely inaccurate. The Pakistan NSA also brushed aside India's protests to assert that he would meet Hurriyat leaders. In a blunt response, external affairs minister Swaraj rejected Aziz's demand, making it clear that he would not be welcome until Pakistan gave an assurance by midnight that Aziz was not going to meet the separatists and that the J&K dispute was not going to be part of the NSA dialogue agenda. 'If Sartaj Aziz decides to speak to the separatists before the NSA meeting, there will be no talks,' said Swaraj. She also quoted from Ufa statement to say that Indian stand flowed from what Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan equivalent Nawaz Sharif agreed at the Russian city on July 10. She said the Pakistani government had come under pressure from those within who did not wish the talks to happen -a clear allusion to the Pakistan military and ISI combine - and urged the civilian leadership in Islambad to defy the pressure. Rejecting Swaraj's contention, Pakistan said the 'the scheduled NSA level talks cannot be held on the basis of the preconditions set by India'. It blamed the Indian foreign minister for unilaterally restricting the agenda for the talks to only two items: creating an atmosphere free from terrorism and tranquility on the LoC. 'Considering that many terror 'incidents' blamed initially by India on Pakistan eventually turned out to be fake, it is not improbable that India can delay the Resumed Dialogue indefinitely by concocting one or two incidents and keeping the LoC hot,' said Pakistan in response to Swaraj's statement. 'Don't involve a third party in the talks in keeping with the spirit of the Simla Agreement and similarly, in keeping the spirit of Ufa, don't expand the agenda of NSA talks beyond terrorism,' Swaraj had earlier said, adding that Aziz was welcome to visit India to discuss terror. Both Swaraj and Aziz left a window open though with the latter suggesting that there could be a meeting as early as next month at the UNGA in New York where both PM Narendra Modi and his counterpart Nawaz Sharif would be present. Displaying three dossiers on RAW's alleged terror activities in Pakistan, Aziz said these would be handed over to Indian NSA Ajit Doval in New York and also to the UN. Swaraj said the path of Indo-Pak relations was strewn with potholes and that it would be wrong to surmise that there won't be any engagement between the two countries in the near future. 'There are no full stops in diplomacy,' she said. Swaraj said there had been 91 incidents of ceasefire violations since the Ufa meeting of the two PMs. While Aziz said India had misread the situation by suggesting that the civilian government was acting under pressure from the Pakistan army, Swaraj again said that known sources in Pakistan had undermined the NSA dialogue. On the issue of dossiers, Swaraj said such documents are not displayed in public. 'If they show us dossier, we will show them a zinda terrorist (Naved),' said Swaraj. Swaraj said it was important for Pakistan to realize that the NSA dialogue was not a part of the composite dialogue process which is meant to address all outstanding issues. In Ufa, she said, India had agreed to discussing all outstanding issues and that this was mentioned in the 'preamble' of the Ufa statement. However, she added, the NSA dialogue was meant to focus on terror only and that J&K dispute could not be a part of that. She also said that Pakistan dithered giving dates for the NSA -level talks because of the re-think that 'terror-only 'format did not suit them. She also said that Pakistan had not given the dates for the talks between the Director General of Military Operations conceived as part of the Ufa agreement, and had deliberately scheduled the talks between the BSF and Rangers on normalizing the border because they wanted to walk out of the talks process. She rejected Aziz's claim that the two sides at Ufa had agreed to discuss J& K along with other outstanding issues, saying that the issue was supposed to be covered through the 'composite dialogue' process and not through the NSA-level talks. Aziz said earlier that Indian claims of Pakistan trying to distort the agenda agreed at Ufa and imposition of 'new conditions' for the talks could not be further from the truth. 'The three-point agenda proposed by Pakistan was fully in line with the Ufa statement,' the NSA said. Giving details of Pakistan's proposals, Aziz said, 'The first point called for discussion on all issues related to terrorism.' 'The second point calls for reviewing progress on actual decisions made at Ufa which included prompt release of fishermen, better arrangements for religious tourism, and activation of mechanisms for restoring peace across the LoC and the Working Boundary.' 'The third point was intended to explore the modalities for discussions on all other outstanding issues including Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen,' he said. The most important sentence of the Ufa agreement, according to Aziz was, 'India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues'.