Three days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif moved to revive the stalled bilateral process between the two countries, Pakistan Monday said “no dialogue will take place with India unless the Kashmir issue is included in the agenda”.
It also asked for “more evidence and information” from India in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case, and inquired about the status of the Samjhauta blast case.
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The remarks were made by Sharif’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, who was present in the meeting between the two PMs in Ufa, Russia. Aziz also released a two-page statement on Monday.
While a joint statement issued after the Modi-Sharif talks said the two sides will find ways to expedite the 26/11 trial, Aziz said, “We need more information and evidence to conclude the trial. The reference to ‘additional information’ (in the Ufa statement) is a recognition of the need that more information is needed to expedite the trial,” he said.
India has expressed dissatisfaction over the 26/11 trial several times in the past, including when mastermind Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi was released by the anti-terrorism court as the Pakistan government failed to furnish the required evidence.
New Delhi has maintained that it has supplied sufficient information and evidence to nail the accused in the attack in Mumbai that left 166 people dead.
With Sharif coming under sharp attack in his country over the omission of Kashmir in the joint statement, Aziz said the Pakistan PM “affirmed our principled position in clear and unequivocal terms during his annual speech at the UN General Assembly. We would continue to extend political, moral, and diplomatic support to our Kashmiri brethren”.
A joint statement after the hour-long meeting between Modi and Sharif in Ufa contained no reference to the Kashmir issue. Instead, the statement noted that both sides are prepared to discuss “all outstanding issues”, which was seen as a nuanced indication that the Kashmir issue will be on the table alongside other topics to be discussed in due course.
Aziz also said that Sharif had “sought information on the progress made on the trial of Samjhauta express terrorist incident”.
Stating that Sharif and Modi had a “frank” discussion about each other’s concerns, Aziz said, “Pakistan has been deeply concerned, not only about hostile statements from Indian ministers, but also about Indian interference in Pakistan, including continuing support for insurgency in Balochistan.”
He said that it was to address these “acrimonious concerns” that the two sides agreed that their National Security Advisers would meet, first in New Delhi and then in Islamabad.
Aziz said the joint statement recognises that “India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues”.
“And we all know what those outstanding issues are. Kashmir, of course, tops the list of outstanding issues, but there are also other important issues like Siachen, Sir Creek, interference and water,” he said.
He said Pakistan stays firms on its principled stance on the issue, and “no compromise” will be made on it.
Aziz said India has been repeating accusations of cross-border terrorism while overlooking the decisive counter-terrorism campaign launched by Pakistan in the last two years.
Noting that all issues will now be followed up through different channels, he said the Sharif-Modi meeting “served to achieve one major objective, that is, reduce tensions and create an environment for meaningful talks on all issues of importance to both countries”.
The adviser said the Ufa meeting was not the formal start to any dialogue process, but served an important purpose to achieve an understanding that both neighbours must reduce tension and hostility in order to constructively engage in a structured dialogue on all issues of bilateral and regional interest, including the core issue of J&K.
He said the two sides have also agreed to revive Track II dialogue to explore ways of resolving lingering issues.
Aziz also said that Modi shared the over-arching vision of Sharif that peaceful relations are imperative to create a space in which both countries can focus on the economic welfare of their people.