India-Pak Talks In Tatters?

* Pakistan’s Talks With Hurriyat A Dealbreaker Says India  * ‘Impossible to accept’ India’s advice on not meeting Hurriyat: Pak

NEW DELHI: The upcoming Indo-Pak NSA-level talks appeared to be on the verge of being aborted after both sides upped their rhetoric over Kashmir, just days before the arrival of top Pakistani diplomat in New Delhi to meet his Indian counterpart.

Pakistan on Friday reacted sharply to Indian’s advisory on its NSA’s meeting with Kashmiri leaders  and said, “The talks with Hurriyat are on. Pakistan will not take dictation from India. (Indo-Pak) talks are not based on conditional diplomacy.”

In a series of tweets on Friday morning, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said India has advised Pakistan that it would not be appropriate for National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz to meet with Hurriyat leaders in India. Such a meeting would not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Ufa understanding to jointly work to combat terrorism, he said.

The Narendra Modi-led government had called off foreign secretary-level talks last August on the pretext that Pakistan had “consulted” with Kashmiri separatist groups before the talks.

An unfazed Pakistan however said they will not be “browbeaten on Kashmir”. Unnamed Pakistan government sources told NDTV that “the so-called Indian red lines will not dictate Pakistan agenda.” 

A Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman said “there is nothing unusual in such meetings and it has been normal practice for Pakistan to consult Hurriyat leaders prior to high level meeting with India”.

Spokesman said that it would be impossible for the country to accept the advice of the Government of India that Sartaj Aziz may not meet the Hurriyat leaders.

“The Hurriyat leaders are true representatives of the Kashmiri people of the Indian- occupied Kashmir,” the Foreign Office said.

On Friday, there was a flurry of activities as Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a high-level meeting, attended by country’s Army chief Raheel Sharif, Aziz and the ISI chief Rizwan Akhtar, and in New Delhi, NSA Ajit Doval met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Swarup said that India definitely wanted the talks to happen and had conveyed to Pakistan its agenda three days back, response to which was still awaited, PTI reported.

“We want talks to happen. India is ready for talks. We are committed to the talks. Now it is up to them (Pakistan),” he said when asked about the fate of the talks between the National Security Advisors which now looks precariously balanced after Pakistan’s invitation to Kashmiri separatist leaders.

Hardened positions on both sides have cast a shadow on the talks but neither side has called them off so far.

The two NSAs are scheduled to meet in New Delhi for talks on terrorism-related issues for the first time on August 23, as decided in a meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif last month in Ufa in Russia.

Politicians React

Meanwhile, the Congress Party on Friday accused the NDA government of messing up India’s foreign policy.

“I am deeply disappointed with Foreign Secretary Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they have completely messed up the foreign policy,” said Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit. He also said that the government is unclear about its agenda in dealing with the Hurriyat.

“In the past also, people from Pakistan come. They met the Hurriyat leaders, and, if you are changing that tactic, it should be a well thought out system,” Dikshit told ANI.

NC leader Farooq Abdullah urged separatist leaders not to meet Aziz so that the two countries can find a way of ending tensions along the border in Jammu and Kashmir.

“I request them (separatists) not to meet Aziz and let the National Security Adviser-level talks go ahead between the two countries… may be something comes out of these talks that will (deal with) cross-border shelling,” the former J-K chief minister said.

Abdullah said that if the talks are called off by India, cross-border shelling would resume, “may be, with added intensity”.

He, meanwhile, slammed “vested interests” in both India and Pakistan for being opposed to peace prevailing in J-K. –With inputs from ANI and PTI

Aziz meets ISI chief

Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has reportedly met the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lieutenant-General Rizwan Akhtar ahead of the NSA-level talks between the two countries scheduled to be held on August 24, according to reports.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah said that Aziz would meet Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi and that consultations with Hurriyat leaders were a routine matter.

He also said that India and Pakistan are in the process of finalizing the agenda for the NSA-level talks in New Delhi on August 23.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, had extended an invitation to the Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other Hurriyat leaders for Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz’s reception party to be held on August 23.

Last year, India had cancelled the Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan after Basit met Kashmiri separatists ahead of the planned meet.

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