With two two attacks in the last two weeks leaving India-Pakistan ties strained, sources said Islamabad was yet to get back to Delhi on dates for proposed talks between the national security advisors of the two countries.
Sources said that India had proposed August 23 and 24 as the dates, but hadn’t got a confirmation from Pakistan.
While there have been reports from Islamabad that Pakistan may pull out of the talks, Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit told The Indian Express, “No decision has yet been taken. So somewhat premature (to talk about this).” Moreover, he said, “Dates have been suggested by India, not decided (yet).”
The Indian side, however, said the NSAs would meet as scheduled. “I don’t know what’s going on in the mind of the Pakistan establishment. Certainly, the government of India’s position is very clear, that NSA-level talks will continue,” Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
Pakistan has also indicated that it does not want the discussions at the NSA talks to be restricted to terrorism-related issues.
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“We have not confirmed (the dates) as yet because we are working on the agenda we intend to propose,” Sartaj Aziz, Special Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told reporters in Islamabad on Saturday. “We will send them our agenda along with the confirmation of dates so that there is no misunderstanding about what has to be discussed.”
While responding to a question, Aziz said, “We have concerns about Indian interference.”
In other remarks that may not go down well in India, Aziz ruled out inviting Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Speaker to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference here, saying Islamabad does not recognise and accept the state Assembly as a legitimate one.
India has threatened to boycott the event if J&K Speaker Kavinder Gupta was not invited.
“Pakistan does not recognise and accept the said Assembly as a legitimate one,” he said, adding that Islamabad’s principled position on J&K would be compromised if the state Speaker was invited. “We will never invite the Speaker of occupied Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.”
PMs Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif had agreed on a meeting of the NSAs to discuss all issues related to terrorism, during a meeting in the Russian city of Ufa last month.
India had consequently gone ahead and worked out the dates for the meeting, to be held in New Delhi between Aziz and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.
Delhi is likely to raise terror attacks in the last two weeks, in Gurdaspur and Udhampur — with a Pakistani hand seen in both — while Islamabad wants India’s alleged involvement in unrest in Balochistan, the financial hub of Karachi and the tribal areas to be part of the talks.
The civilian government in Pakistan has become vocal about this issue since the powerful army accused India of “whipping up terrorism” in Pakistan.
Aziz contended Saturday that India tends to blame Pakistan for every terrorist incident, “even before investigation could take place”. “The purpose of this visit is that whatsoever reservations and allegations we have, they need to be discussed at the table and not through the media.”