NSA talks on track: officials

In this August 14, 2015 photo, Pakistan envoy Abdul Basit and his wife cut a cake to celebrate the country's Independence Day in New Delhi.  

The recent series of “provocations” by Pakistan will not derail the NSA-level talks scheduled on August 23-24, government officials clarified on Wednesday.

The officials were reacting to the latest move by Islamabad to invite separatist leaders from Kashmir to a Pakistan High Commission “reception” in Delhi on August 23 for Pakistan National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz when he arrives for talks with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval.

After a meeting of the Hurriyat leadership in Srinagar on Wednesday, the chairpersons of both moderate and hardline factions — Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani — confirmed their acceptance of the invitation and added that the Hurriyat “supports” the India-Pakistan talks.

“We have accepted the invitation,” the Mirwaiz told The Hindu. “We had an intra-party meeting today [Wednesday] and decided that both countries must stop ceasefire violations and resume dialogue with Kashmiri representation on the table.”

However, the government saw the invitation as a move by Pakistan to disrupt the talks, given India’s previous opposition to the separatists meeting the Pakistani leadership.

“The invitation should be seen as the latest provocative move in that direction,” an official said, adding, “Let’s see what happens [if they go ahead with the Hurriyat meeting]. The government will respond appropriately.”

Invite seen as a deliberate provocation

The Centre’s decision, not to make an issue of the invite to Kashmiri separatist leaders to a Pakistan High Commission “reception” in Delhi for visiting National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz, comes in stark contrast to its position last year.

In August 2014, India had called off scheduled talks between Foreign Secretaries in Islamabad over the Pakistan High Commissioner’s meeting with Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi, pointing to “new red lines” in engagement.

“This is a red line we have drawn,” the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson had said at the time. “We have told Pakistan — you either talk to us, or to them [Kashmiri separatists].”

The change in position drew criticism from the Congress on Wednesday. “There is no road map. There is no vision on engagement with Pakistan. There are complex issues and challenges. There are abrupt policy statements [on dealing with Pakistan]. [Talks] On today. Off tomorrow,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said on Wednesday.

The invitation to the Hurriyat leaders is part of a series of “provocations”, Indian officials believe, from the Pakistani government to push India into calling off the talks.

Indian Army officers say Pakistani troops escalated firing on border posts in Hamirpur and Mendhar on Wednesday, the 11th consecutive day of ceasefire violations. Terrorist attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur last month were also seen as an attempt to ratchet up tensions between the two countries.

The violence is followed by Pakistan’s tough posturing over Jammu and Kashmir, counterbalancing the exclusion of the State in the Ufa statement delivered by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif.

Last month, Pakistan refused to invite the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly Speaker to a Commonwealth Parliamentary Union conference saying that the State was “disputed”, forcing India to cancel its attendance in protest.

And after U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon counselled “maximum restraint” and expressed “serious concern” over the LoC violence, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.N., Maleeha Lodhi, called on the U.N. Security Council and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to “contribute” to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

In response, the government has made very few public comments, as officials said they would make their stand clear to Mr. Aziz when Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval meets him, and will keep the focus on terror in the meetings on Sunday, even as they braced for more “provocations” ahead of them.

“Talks with Pakistan are like walking on glass,” BJP spokesperson M.J. Akbar told a TV channel on Wednesday. “You don’t know when they can shatter.”

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 11:40:00 PM |

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