It’s a depressingly predictable piece of theatre, and once again it’s the K word that has wrecked the planned talks between national security advisers of the perennially prickly neighbours, India and Pakistan. The much- touted talks between the NSAs of the two estranged neighbours were cancelled after an intense slanging match following Islamabad inviting the Kashmiri separatist leaders to meet Sartaz Aziz in New Delhi. The Modi government drew the red line when it cancelled the foreign secretary-level talks a year ago on grounds of the Pakistani envoy inviting separatist leaders for a meeting. This time round, New Delhi has reinforced the red line with an added conviction.
India’s Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj had issued an ultimatum to Pakistan to respond by the midnight of August 23 on continuing talks without Pakistan’s NSA meeting the separatists. By the late hours of August 22, Pakistan responded saying it cannot attend the meet as India was imposing pre- conditions and called off the meeting.
India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed Pakistan’s decision to call off the talks was unfortunate. “It is unfortunate that Pakistan has called off the talks. India wanted to have talks,” said Mr Singh. They should have fixed the agenda beforehand. Kashmir was never on the talks agenda),” he added. He also underlined that India wanted to have good relations with its neighbours. While both sides did not categorically state as to why they called off the talks, New Delhi insisted that the meeting must focus on terrorism and Islamabad kept on reiterating that pre-conditions would serve no purpose.
Mrs Swaraj had said Mr Aziz would be welcome in Delhi if Pakistan provided an assurance that he would not meet Hurriyat leaders and add a “third party” to the process, and accept that talks would only focus on terror. “Keeping in mind the spirit of the (1972) Simla Agreement, don’t make Hurriyat a third party to the talks, and keeping the spirit of Ufa, don’t expand the subject of talks beyond terrorism,” said Ms Swaraj.
The Pakistani media blamed India’s pre conditions for the collapse of talks. Pakistan responded by stressing that terrorism was a part of the composite dialogue, and should be discussed simultaneously with other issues. “It is not reasonable for India to now assume the right to decide unilaterally that from now onwards, other issues will be discussed after terrorism has been discussed and eliminated,” a statement released by Pakistan’s foreign office said.
The two NSAs could still probably meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in the last week of September.
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