In an already existing hostile atmosphere in South Asia, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership has added to the hostility in South Asia by deciding not to have any talks with India unless the Kashmir issue is put on the agenda.
The decision not to engage with India without Kashmir being on the agenda was taken at a meeting between Mr Sharif and the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif. The decision between the civil and military leadership was a unanimous one. Pakistan is not ready to hold talks with India unless Kashmir is on the agenda, said top officials. Pakistan’s decision comes after India said it was ready to hold talks with it but only on the terms that were agreed upon between Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi in Ufa. India and Pakistan had earlier cancelled the National Security Advisors (NSA) talks at the eleventh hour . The decision to engage the NSAs was taken at a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif during their bilateral meeting at Ufa on the sidelines of the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summits in July.
Some other top officials present at the meeting between the civil and military leadership were Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Rashad Mehmood, Chief of General Staff Lt-Gen Zubair Mehmood Hayat, ISI DG Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Lt-General Asim Saleem Bajwa, federal ministers Ishaq Dar (finance) and Ch Nisar Ali (interior); adviser to PM on National Security Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant to PM Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Office Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.
The decision taken by Pakistan after the major meeting is a setback to the peace process between the two countries. India has been vocal about engaging with Pakistan, if it discusses terror and brings the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks to justice. Pakistan on the other hand has been vocal in its demand for discussing the Kashmir issue as the most important agenda.
With escalating tensions in South Asia and the talks hitting a roadblock between the two countries hitting a roadblock, any hope for a constructive engagement between the two countries in the near future looks doubtful. With the two countries indulging in allegations and counter allegations, sticking to the decisions taken at Ufa no longer seems possible. One can expect tensions to escalate between the two countries in the days ahead.
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