NEW DELHI: Security adviser level talks between India and Pakistan, scheduled for August 23 and 24, are in deep trouble as both nations reached a deadlock over Pakistan's insistence to hold a meeting with Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi on August 23 despite India’s ‘advice’ to the contrary.
According to India's government-run news agency – Press Trust of India – talks were called off by Indian authorities on Friday. But the news agency immediately toned down its rhetoric saying that talks were “unlikely” after recent developments.
India’s External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup on Friday said unilateral imposition of new conditions and “distortion of the agreed agenda cannot be the basis for going forward,” after Pakistan officially rejected India's advice of not holding a meeting with separatist Hurriyat leaders in Delhi.
Indian Deputy High Commissioner to Pakistan J P Singh on Friday visited the Foreign Office and delivered a copy of the statement made by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs regarding the upcoming talks.
“We have conveyed the decision of our Ministry of External Affairs,” said Singh after his visit.
According to diplomatic sources, India has demanded that the Kashmir issue be dropped from the agenda, and Pakistan cancel its meeting with Hurriyat leaders.
Responding to India's statement, the Foreign Office in a news release said: “We are deeply disappointed at the statement of the spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, putting forth pre-conditions for official talks to take place with Pakistan at the level of the National Security Advisers.”
The Foreign Office said Pakistan's invitation to the Kashmiri Hurriyat leadership to a reception in honour of the Sartaj Aziz on August 23 was an “established practice and tradition” and “sees no reason to depart from it.”
“After all, the Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders are genuine stakeholders in efforts to find a lasting solution of the Kashmir dispute.”
Pakistan said India's refusal to engage in talks with Pakistan on this pretext was a repeat of what it did when it cancelled foreign secretary level talks in August last year. “This is the second time that India has chosen to go back on a decision mutually agreed upon between the two prime ministers, to engage in a comprehensive dialogue, by coming up with frivolous pretexts,” said the FO statement.
Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, while talking to Dawn.com, said: “Pakistan will not drop Kashmir from its agenda nor will it cancel the meeting with Hurriyat leaders.” He went on to say that the future of these talks was in India's hands since it was the host.
“Pakistan is willing to participate in the talks but without any pre-conditions.”
Earlier today, Pakistan had conveyed to India it would not cancel Sartaj Aziz's meeting with Hurriyat leaders, according to a statement published on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
The message was conveyed to the Indian High Commissioner by Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry.
Pakistan's reply was in response to the Indian statement on Friday which said that National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz should not hold any meeting with All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) representatives on his visit to India, and termed any such a meeting as “inappropriate”.
Pakistan had proposed and conveyed to India a comprehensive agenda, reflecting the broad understanding reached between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian premier Narendra Modi in Ufa, that all outstanding issues, including Kashmir and other disputes, as well as, terrorism issues and other confidence building measures will be discussed between the two countries.
Last year, the Indian government had called off foreign secretary talks after Pakistan had "consulted" with Kashmiri separatists before the talks.
The statement came after three Kashmiri separatist leaders were placed under house arrest but were later freed.
The meeting between the two countries' security advisers was supposed to signal the resumption of talks between India and Pakistan.
Read more: India proposes security advisers’ meeting
Since the meeting between the two premiers in July, militant attacks and border skirmishes have poisoned the atmosphere between Islamabad and New Delhi.
The invitation for dialogue came from New Delhi and in the shadow of the July 27 militant attack in Gurdaspur, which some Indian leaders have blamed on Pakistan.