The fate of India-Pakistan NSA-level talks hung by a thread on Friday as India officially asked Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz in an advisory not to go ahead with his proposed meeting with Hurriyat leaders.
India said on Friday that it had also sought a confirmation from Islamabad for a dialogue agenda which it had formally communicated to Pakistan on August 18.
No Pakistan itinerary: Is Aziz trying to wriggle out?
“Such a meeting would not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Ufa understanding to jointly work to combat terrorism,” tweeted MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup.
India had earlier said that the only agenda for the talks was going to be Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. It has maintained for weeks now that the talks between the NSAs, as the Ufa declaration mentioned, was meant to address all issues connected to terrorism.
Pakistan though wants to widen the scope of talks by bringing up the Kashmir dispute and linking it with the issue of terrorism.
Pakistan had earlier said that barring Hurriyat hardliner Syed Geelani, all other separatists had only been invited for a reception at its high commission. Its diplomats now said, however, that Aziz will have meetings with all Hurriyat leaders ahead of the talks.
According to Pakistan, this will ensure a more “meaningful and result-oriented” dialogue between the NSAs. The fact that Islamabad chose to cancel the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, which it was supposed to host next month, after India insisted that the Speaker of Jammu and Kashmir assembly be invited is evidence, according to Islamabad, of how much importance it attached to the Kashmir issue.
Indian officials say that New Delhi was completely taken aback by the spurt in ceasefire violations since the Ufa meeting of PM Narendra Modi with his counterpart Nawaz Sharif on July 10. It was given the impression that the Pakistan army was fully on board the Ufa initiative. “As it turns out, that was clearly not the case,” said an official.
India had until now nuanced its position by saying that it blamed only the army and ISI for ceasefire violations and the terror attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur but the gloves may have just come off now. “The civilian government should not have given any commitment which it was in position to fulfil,” said a source here.
Pakistan has also officially communicated to India that Aziz will arrive in India around noon Sunday, making it possible to have the official talks with his counterpart Ajit Doval only the next day. This will give Aziz ample time to hold discussions with the Hurriyat.
With the house arrest of Hurriyat leaders, even if briefly, India has sought to convey to Pakistan that its August 2014 red line – that Pakistan can’t engage Hurriyat ahead of any dialogue with India – is not negotiable. While except for Geelani, all other separatists have been released, they are expected to be detained while leaving for Delhi or immediately after they land in Delhi.