- Late reports say NSA -level talks off as Pakistan refuses India’s conditions on keeping Kashmir and pro-freedom leaders out
Srinagar: The NSA-level talks between India and Pakistan scheduled for Sunday have been called off, according to media reports late on Saturday. The cancellation seemed inevitable as both sides continued reiterating their respective positions. On Saturday evening, India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj gave Pakistan a ‘midnight deadline’, saying “twin assurances” – that Kashmir cannot be part of the agenda nor can Pakistan’s NSA Sartaj Aziz meet the Kashmiri pro-freedom camp – were needed without which the talks could not proceed. Swaraj also said India would not accept a “third party” to the talks, in obvious reference to Kashmiri presence and representation in Indo-Pak talks.
In reaction, late on Saturday, media reports quoted the Pakistan government as saying that Islamabad could not meet the two conditions set by India. According to reports, a statement issued by the Pakistan government said it had “carefully analysed the contents” of Sushma Swaraj’s press conference and that, “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.”
Before Swaraj’s press conference in Delhi, Aziz held a press conference in Islamabad during which he said that he was “prepared to go to Delhi for talks without any pre-conditions”, while being critical of India’s insistence that he should not meet Kashmiri pro-freedom leaders. This, he reportedly said, was akin to controlling the guest list for a reception which was to be held for him at the Pakistan High Commission tomorrow.
“The statement of Indian External ministry that Pakistan has imposed new conditions totally ignores the last sentence in the note handed over to the Indian High Commission that Pakistan is ready to hold NSA-level talks without any pre-conditions. In fact, it is India that has imposed new conditions that Pakistan cannot meet Hurriyat leaders, assuming the right to determine the guest list for the High Commissioner’s reception,” Aziz said.
Accusing India of going against the Ufa summit, he said, “Everybody knows what is the most important outstanding issue: it is Kashmir”, adding that the Modi government wanted to deal with Pakistan “on his terms” by keeping Kashmir on the backburner, which was not acceptable to Pakistan.
On her part, Swaraj said “there will be no talks” when asked what would happen if Pakistan did not accept the position outlined by her on Kashmiri pro-freedom leaders and Kashmir. Yet, she also tried to emphasise that she was “not laying down any pre-conditions” for talks between Aziz and his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval. When asked about former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee allowing meetings between Hurriyat leaders and the then Pakistan President Parvez Musharraf in India, she said “let bygones be bygones”.
Soon after Swaraj’s statements, Pakistan countered India’s stance by saying it was not ready to accept conditions on a composite dialogue and rejected the “twin assurances” sought by India. While India also insisted that the talks would only focus on terrorism, Pakistan had retorted by saying Kashmir would be on the agenda.
—With inputs from Agencies