ISLAMABAD: Amid intense bickering, the government decided on Saturday to cancel the planned meeting of national security advisers with India, citing New Delhi’s refusal to allow an expanded agenda and a meeting with Kashmiri leaders.
The Indian external affairs ministry immediately termed the decision “unfortunate” and tried to wash its hands of the controversy that led to the cancellation of the meeting by saying that it “did not set any preconditions”.
“The scheduled NSA-level talks cannot be held on the basis of the preconditions set by India,” the Foreign Office said in a statement. A meeting held under conditions set by India “would not serve the purpose” of “reducing tensions and restoring trust as a first step towards normalisation”, it added.
Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz was to have travelled to the Indian capital on Sunday for the Aug 24 meeting with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.
Aziz says agenda proposed by Pakistan was in line with Ufa understanding
The decision was announced after Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj virtually set a deadline for Pakistan to decide by midnight if it was ready to go ahead with the talks by agreeing not to meet the Kashmiri leaders and restricting the discussion to terrorism.
“If they don’t agree to this, there would be no talks,” Ms Swaraj said at a press conference in Delhi.
Foreign policy strategists went into a huddle after this statement for a final decision, although Mr Aziz had made it clear at a press conference earlier in the day that he could travel to Delhi only if India did not impose any conditions.
In its rejoinder to Ms Swaraj’s statement, the Foreign Office said that instead of talking only about terrorism, the matter needed to be discussed along with other issues marring the relationship between the two countries.
“If the only purpose of the NSA-level talks is to discuss terrorism, then instead of improving the prospects for peace it will only intensify the blame game and further vitiate the atmosphere,” it said.
Explaining the insistence on a broader agenda, Mr Aziz said Pakistan only wanted to discuss a future roadmap and modalities for discussion on other issues and was not seeking substantive negotiations on them.
|Sushma Swaraj speaks at a press conference in New Delhi.—AP|
The FO statement on the cancellation of the meeting said: “That is why Pakistan had suggested that apart from discussion on terrorism-related issues, the two sides should also discuss modalities and, if possible, a schedule for discussions on all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek, in keeping with the understanding of the Ufa statement. That is the only way to improve the prospects for peace between the two countries.”
Mr Aziz said the three-point agenda proposed by Pakistan was in line with what had been agreed during a meeting between the prime ministers of both countries in the Russian city of Ufa last month.
He revealed the proposed agenda that had set off the row.
Besides a discussion on terrorism, Pakistan had sought inclusion of two additional points in the agenda -- a review of the progress on decisions taken in Ufa regarding release of fishermen, facilitating religious tourism and restoring peace along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary; and exploration of the modalities for discussions on other outstanding issues, including Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen.
Considering that many incidents of terrorism “blamed initially by India on Pakistan eventually turned out to be fake, it is not improbable that India can delay the resumed dialogue indefinitely by concocting one or two incidents and keeping the LoC hot,” the Foreign Office said.
Rejecting Indian pressure for cancelling Mr Aziz’s planned the meeting with Hurriyat leaders, the Foreign Office reiterated that it could not change the longstanding practice of holding meetings with the Kashmiri leadership during visits of Pakistani leaders to India.
Mr Aziz virtually suggested an alternative meeting of the NSAs in New York on the sidelines of the coming United Nations General Assembly Summit for handing over three dossiers on Indian intelligence agency RAW’s involvement in Pakistan.
“If I do not get this opportunity on Aug 24, I hope I will get a chance to hand them over to Mr Doval in New York next month, if he accompanies Prime Minister Modi for the UN General Assembly,” he said and added that later the dossiers would also be shared with the UN secretary general.
Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2015