South Asia

As sparring worsens, NSA talks are off

Pakistan National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz (left) and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Pakistan on Saturday called off the August 23 talks between Mr. Aziz and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval. File photo  

The curtains came down by Saturday night on the dramatic spectacle around holding India-Pakistan talks, less than a day before Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz was due to land in New Delhi, with bitter accusations and acrimony marking the exchanges.

Pakistan accused India of “concocting terror incidents and keeping the LoC [Line of Control] hot”, while India said Pakistan was using firing at the LoC and terror attacks to “run away from the talks”.

If on Friday, the two nations sparred by exchanging media statements, on Saturday, they sparred at press conferences addressed by Mr. Aziz in Islamabad, followed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Delhi. The deadlock over the talks, due to be held between Mr. Aziz and India’s NSA Ajit Doval from 10 a.m. on Monday morning at Hyderabad House here, remained the same, however. While India said Mr. Aziz could not meet Kashmiri separatist Hurriyat leaders during his visit, and would have to restrict the agenda to issues of terrorism, Pakistan said it would accept no conditions and would have an “open agenda”. In a late-night statement, the Pakistani Foreign Affairs Ministry said: “The scheduled NSA-level talks cannot be held on the basis of the preconditions set by India.” The talks “would not serve any purpose if conducted on the basis of the two conditions set by Ms. Swaraj”.

Pakistan violated Shimla pact, Ufa spirit: Sushma

Ms. Swaraj said that Pakistan’s decision to invite the Hurriyat leadership for a meeting was “against the Shimla agreement” that stipulated only bilateral talks, and no “third party”.

She said the plans of Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz to bring up the Kashmir issue was “against the spirit of Ufa”. Finally, Ms. Swaraj handed Pakistan a midnight deadline to give a clear assurance that Mr. Aziz would not bring up any other agenda other than terrorism at the meeting with NSA Ajit Doval, and would not press ahead with the Hurriyat meeting either.

Denying that India was imposing conditions on the talks, as Mr. Aziz had alleged, Ms. Swaraj said she was merely “clarifying” the ground rules that had been agreed to at Ufa.

“After returning to Pakistan, [Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif faced so much criticism, he determined NSA talks would have to be called off on some pretext,” she said.

“Pakistan’s decision is unfortunate,” tweeted External Affairs Ministry spokesperson. “India did not set any preconditions.”

The two sides also sparred in their respective media conferences over what the dossiers Mr. Aziz and Mr. Doval would exchange would contain. At his press conference that preceded Ms. Swaraj’s conference, Mr. Aziz waved three dossiers he claimed contained evidence of alleged Indian “interference” in Balochistan.

“A major theme being played up in the Indian media is that Pakistan was apprehensive of the dossier Mr. Doval prepared for presentation to me during the NSA talks and was therefore looking for an exit. In fact, I will also be carrying three dossiers on RAW’s involvement in promoting terrorism in Pakistan,” said Mr. Aziz, adding that if the NSA talks were cancelled he would hand the dossiers over to India when the Prime Ministers are in New York for the United Nations General Assembly special session and would give them to the U.N. Secretary-General as well.

“Let them bring their dossiers,” said Ms. Swaraj in reply. “We will show them a live Pakistani,” she said referring to the militant captured from Udhampur, Mohammad Naved, who is believed to have come from Pakistan and was trained at a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp.

Press statement by the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Office

Pakistan has carefully analyzed the contents of the Press Conference of the Indian Minister for External Affairs, Mrs. Sushma Sawaraj this afternoon. We have 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.

While the Indian Minister accepts that, to ensure durable peace between the two countries, there is a need to discuss all outstanding issues through a sustained dialogue process, started in 1998 as Composite Dialogue and renamed as Resumed Dialogue in 2011, she then unilaterally restricts the agenda to only two items: creating an atmosphere free from terrorism and tranquility on the LoC.

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.

It is equally important to recall that terrorism was always a part of the eight point composite dialogue and it was always discussed simultaneously with other issues between the Interior Secretaries. 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.

The main purpose of any dialogue between India and Pakistan is to reduce tensions and restore trust as a first step towards normalization. If the only purpose of NSA level talks is to discuss terrorism, then instead of improving the prospects for peace it will only intensify the blame game and further vitiate the atmosphere. That is why Pakistan had suggested that apart from discussion on terrorism related issues, the two sides should also discuss modalities and if possible a time schedule, for discussions on all outstanding issues including Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek, in keeping with the understanding of the Ufa statement. That is the only way to improve the prospects for peace between the two countries.

The EAM’s attempt to draw a distinction between preambular and operative paragraphs in the Ufa statement appears to be an after-thought to justify a position that is counterproductive in terms of the ultimate objective of reducing tensions and improving trust.

As regards the second pre-condition regarding meeting with Hurriyat leaders, it has been pointed out repeatedly that it has been a long-standing practice that whenever Pakistani leaders visited India during the past twenty years, they have been meeting Hurriyet leaders. It would be inappropriate for India to now impose the condition of changing this longstanding practice.

Pakistan, therefore, reiterates that the scheduled NSA level talks cannot be held on the basis of the preconditions set by India.


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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 3:41:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/south-asia/indiapakistan-national-security-advisorlevel-talks-called-off/article7569679.ece

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