Talks Stand: India, Pakistan Show Maturity

Amid high drama, separatist leaders arrested, released ; Pak cancels Commonwealth conference to highlight Kashmir problem

NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan have successfully been able to accommodate each others concerns and go ahead with the National Security Advisor level talks in New Delhi on August 23-24.

Pakistan agreed to meet the separatist leaders after the NSA-level talks and guns also fell silent on the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) since Wednesday night.

India released the Hurriyat leaders after their arrest early this morning to allow them to travel to New Delhi for the meeting.

Sources said that BJP-led NDA government was under pressure from opposition and some of the saffron parties to cancel the NSA-level talks with Pakistan after repeated ceasefire violations and recent militant attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab.

Pakistan has cancelled the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference due to tensions with India over Jammu and Kashmir, officials said today, days before the two neighbours are due to meet.

The conference, to be held in the Pakistani Capital on September 30, has been cancelled because legislators from Jammu and Kashmir have planned to attend, said Parliamentary Speaker Ayaz Sadiq.

Pakistan “saw an opportunity to raise the Kashmir issue” by refusing to host the conference, Sadiq said.

“When it is clear that we have fought wars over this, brought resolutions in the United Nations, then how can we abandon our point of view (on Kashmir) now?” he said.

Amid high drama, all key Hurriyat leaders and leaders of JKLF and DFP Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah were placed under house arrest early in the morning and released a few hours later.

Hurriyat (G) spokesperson Aiyaz Akbar said, however, chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has been under house arrest since April 15, continues to be under detention.

The separatist leaders, invited by Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit ahead of India and Pakistan National Security Advisor (NSA) level talks were put under house arrest or taken into preventive custody, evoking condemnation from separatists organisations, who claimed that participation of people of Jammu and Kashmir in any talks was necessary to resolve the long-standing Kashmir problem amicably.

The invitation to separatists to hold talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz before the NSA dialogue with India had put BJP in an awkward position.

India had called off foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan, objecting to its envoy meeting Kashmir separatists on the eve of the dialogue in August last year.

BJP, whether in opposition or in power, had been time and again saying that terrorism and talks with Pakistan cannot go together.

However, sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said the strategy of Pakistan establishment this time too was to force India to call off the talks so as to blame it for derailing the new peace initiative announced at Ufa, by resorting to shelling and inviting separatists for talks ahead of the NSA-level dialogue.

For the past fortnight, Pakistani troops have been targeting civilian position on LoC and IB claiming more than six lives and injuries to scores of others. Militant attacks on police station in Punjab and on a BSF convoy at Udhampur, where a militant was arrested alive, and repeated attempts of infiltration from Pakistani Kashmir  had put a question mark on the NSA-level talks.

Pakistan’s move to invite separatists before NSA level talks and attacks had evoked massive criticism from all political parties, particularly Opposition, which questioned the BJP on resumption of talks with the neighbouring country reminding the party of its earlier stand that talks and terrorism cannot go together.

Pakistan guns are now silent since last night and there was no report of any fresh ceasefire violation in the Jammu and Kashmir today.

However, all the separatist leaders, invited by Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit for talks with Mr Aziz before the NSA meeting, were arrested to prevent from meeting Mr Aziz and avoid any criticism from opposition parties.

Interestingly the leaders, barring Geelani were released after few hours.

Sources said this has been done as Islamabad has agreed to meet Kashmiri separatists after the NSA-level talks in New Delhi as they have been meeting Pakistani leaders in the past since 1947.

The decision to meet separatist leaders after NSA meeting has upset separatist leaders in the Valley.

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Mohammad Yaseen Malik, who was arrested and later released today said he will not travel to New Delhi to participate in the meeting with Mr Aziz.

Two leaders of his outfit, Ghulam Rasool Edhi and Showkat Ahmad Bakshi, will represent the front in the meeting, he said.

Malik, who was ready to travel to New Delhi on Saturday morning to meet Mr Aziz said,”after we learnt that meeting with Aziz will be held after the NSA level meeting I decided to stay back in Srinagar.

I wanted to meet Mr Aziz before the NSA-level talks between the two countries, ”he said.

Chairmen of both the factions of the Hurriyat and other separatist leaders will also meet Mr Aziz after the NSA meeting

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