NEW DELHI: The August 23-24 meeting between the national security advisers of India and Pakistan appeared to be delicately poised on Wednesday amid reports that Pakistan’s representative would meet Hurriyat leaders in Delhi and India’s officials saying there would be an appropriate response.

Local reports said the Pakistan High Commission has invited leaders of the Hurriyat to meet Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz during his stay in Delhi.

The Hindu said that invitations had gone to key leaders of the Hurriyat, including chairperson Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and his rival Syed Ali Shah Geelani for a reception hosted by the High Commission.

The Bharatiya Janata Party offered a face-saving spin, which could tone down the toxicity of a Hurriyat-Aziz meeting that would be felt in Indian official circles.

The party is of the view that the NSA-level meeting is different from a diplomatic engagement, and as such it is being constructed as an “operational meeting” invol­ving elements of the security apparatus on both sides.

Another point now stressed is that the Hurriyat leaders would be meeting Mr Aziz after his official engagement that too at a public reception, as distinct from a one-to-one meeting. In August 2014, India had called off talks between the foreign secretaries in Islamabad over the Pakistan High Commissioner’s meeting with Hurriyat leaders in Delhi, pointing to “new red lines” in engagement.

“This is a red line we have drawn,” the Indian foreign ministry spokesperson had explained at the time. “We have told Pakistan — you either talk to us, or to them (Kashmiri resistance).”

Mr Aziz too had admitted that the “timing of the Hurriyat talks” could have been better. “It remains to be seen whether the reaction from the government this year will be similar, given that Mr Aziz is expected to meet the Hurriyat leaders at the reception after, and not before his scheduled talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval”, The Hindu said.

However, the invitation to the Hurriyat will also be seen in the context of a series of developments many inside the government see as “provocations” from Pakistan ahead of the talks, The Hindu said.

“The latest invitation to the Hurriyat will be seen as a reaffirmation that Pakistan wants to include the Kashmir resolution issue in NSA talks that are at present only mandated to discuss “all forms of terrorism”.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2015

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