NSA-level talks off: After war of words, India and Pakistan decide not to talk

Islamabad says no talks, India set conditions; Delhi says unfortunate, only repeated Ufa.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: August 23, 2015 8:13 am
nsa, nsa talks cancelled, nsa talks off, sushma swaraj, asartaj aziz, indo pak talks, NSA level talks, ajit doval, pakistan, kashmiri separatists, indo pak NSA talks, pakistan news, shabir shah After Aziz waves a dossier on R&AW in Pak, Swaraj says India has a ‘live terrorist’ from Pak. (Source: AP photo/Prem Nath Pandey)

Ending the suspense over the NSA-level talks scheduled in New Delhi, Islamabad said Saturday night that “it cannot be held on the basis of the preconditions set by India”.

The Pakistani response came five hours after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Pakistan Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, was welcome if Pakistan could give an assurance by midnight that talks would be confined only to terror and that he won’t meet the Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi. She delinked the NSA-level talks from the composite dialogue between the two countries.

In first remarks after the Pakistani statement, Vikas Swarup, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, tweeted: “Pakistan’s decision is unfortunate. India did not set any preconditions. We only reiterated that Pakistan respect the spirit of the Simla & Ufa Agreements to which it was already committed.”

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At 10 pm, two hours before Swaraj’s deadline and after 40 hours of brinkmanship that started Friday morning, the Pakistan Foreign Ministry cleared the air when it said Islamabad had “carefully analyzed” Swaraj’s statements and had come to the conclusion that the “proposed NSA level talks between the two countries would not serve any purpose, if conducted on the basis of the two conditions laid down by the Minister”.

On the meeting with Hurriyat leaders, Islamabad said it had “repeatedly” mentioned this was a “long-standing practice”, that whenever Pakistani leaders visited India in the last twenty years, they had met Hurriyat leaders. “It would be inappropriate for India to now impose the condition of changing this long-standing practice,” the Pakistan statement said.

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“Considering that many terror ‘incidents’ 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,” Islamabad said.

Maintaining that the issue of terrorism was always a part of the composite dialogue and discussed simultaneously with other issues, the Pakistan statement said, “It is not reasonable for India to now assume the right to decide unilaterally that from now onwards, other issues will be discussed after terrorism has been discussed and eliminated.”

Earlier in the day, the NSA-level talks plunged into uncertainty with neither side ready to blink.

Swaraj said that Aziz was welcome if Pakistan could give an assurance by midnight that talks would be confined only to terror.

She ruled out talks if the Pakistanis insisted on Aziz meeting Hurriyat leaders and other Kashmiri separatists invited to New Delhi by the Pakistan High Commission. Asked what if Aziz didn’t agree to the Indian position, Swaraj said, “Toh baat-chit nahin hogi (then talks won’t happen).”

Asked if former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was wrong in letting Hurriyat leaders meet visiting Pakistan leaders, including General Musharraf, she said, “Jo beet gayee, so baat gayee (let bygones be bygones).”

She called a press conference to outline the Indian stand on the talks two hours after Aziz told a press conference in Islamabad that he was ready to travel to India for the NSA-level talks “without any pre-condition”.

“Cancellation (of the talks) is yet to be confirmed from either side. Therefore, we are ready to go as per schedule without any pre-condition,” Aziz, who was due to reach New Delhi Sunday afternoon, said.

In New Delhi, Swaraj maintained she was not laying down any new condition for talks between Aziz and National Security Advisor Ajit K Doval. She delinked these talks from the composite dialogue between the two countries which involves discussions on all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.

“I am only invoking the Simla spirit under which two countries are committed to resolve issues bilaterally, and the recent agreement in Ufa where Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi had agreed that the NSAs would meet only to discuss terror.”

She accused Pakistan of trying to undermine the NSA-level talks under pressure from “known sources” in Pakistan — it was a reference to the Pakistan military — opposed to dialogue with India.

“We are not running away from talks. It is Pakistan, not India, that is running away from dialogue. If the Hurriyat leaders are kept away and issues other than terror are not raised by Aziz, he is welcome to come for the talks,” she said.

She said the Pakistanis sat on an Indian request for the talks agenda for 22 days and got back only on August 14. She said they agreed to a meeting of the Pakistan Rangers with the Border Security Force on September 6 though the Indians wanted this meeting before the NSA-level talks.
The Pakistanis, she said, were still to get back on a date for a meeting of the DGMOs. She said there had been 91 incidents of ceasefire violations by the Pakistanis since the Ufa meeting.

Taking a swipe at Aziz for waving a dossier on ‘R&AW’s involvement in Pakistan’, she said dossiers are not waved in public, but are given in “sealed envelopes”. “They are supposed to be given in a meeting in New Delhi, not in the corridors of New York.”

Earlier, Aziz had said that Pakistan will hand over the dossier in New Delhi if the talks take place, or else, it will be handed over to Doval in New York next month when they meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting.

“After handing over these dossiers to Mr Doval, I can then also share them with the UN Secretary General,” he said.

This fetched an angry response from Swaraj: “If they give us a dossier, we have a live terrorist from Pakistan, Naved with us, we can produce him before them.”

Aziz said he was disappointed that India had “virtually cancelled the talks” and it would be the second time that New Delhi has gone back on a commitment to hold talks — in August 2014, India had called off Foreign Secretary-level talks in Islamabad, protesting the Pakistan High Commissioner’s meeting with Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi.

“The reason for this regretful second cancellation, if it is happening, would be the same,” Aziz said, adding that the invitation to three-four Kashmiri leaders to a reception organised in New Delhi on Sunday was to “enable me to meet a cross-section of Indian political and business leaders”.

Accusing India of going against the Ufa summit, he said: “Everybody knows what is the most important outstanding issue: it is Kashmir”.

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