Pakistan calls off NSA-level talks with India

RSTV Bureau

India  Pakistan NSAEnding the suspense on Saturday night over the much hyped India-Pakistan NSA level talks , Pakistan called off the Indo-Pak NSA-level talks, hours after India made it clear that discussions on Kashmir and a meeting with separatists will not be acceptable.

Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s National security and foreign affairs adviser was to hold talks with national security adviser Ajit Doval on Monday.

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”.

Calling Pakistan’s decision to cancel the talks as “unfortunate”, India said it had not set any condition for the talks.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed cancellation of NSA talks ‘unfortunate’ and made it clear that the possibility of any future dialogue will depend on the neighbour.

He also underlined that India stands for dialogue and cordial relationship with Pakistan, a day after the talks between NSA Ajit Doval and his counterpart Sartaj Aziz were called off.

Foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup reacting on the Pakistan decision to cancel NSA level talks 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.”

“Pakistan reiterates that the scheduled NSA-level talks cannot be held on the basis of the preconditions set by India,” a statement by the Pakistani Foreign Office said.

Pakistan’s announcement brought to an end the battle of attrition as to who would blink first.

That the talks was a non-starter was evident in the last two days in view of the acrimonious exchanges between the two sides but the last straw appeared to be External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s virtual ultimatum to Pakistan to give a clear commitment by midnight that it would not go ahead with meeting the separatists.

“There will be no talks,” Swaraj declared when asked what would happen if Pakistan did not accept the position outlined by her on separatists and Kashmir though she maintained these were not pre-conditions.

What became a red rag for New Delhi was the invitation by the Pakistan High Commission to Hurriyat leaders to meet Aziz ahead of the first-ever NSA-level talks, which was agreed upon in Ufa in Russia in July during the meeting between the two Prime Ministers–Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

India was also upset over Pakistan including Kashmir as part of the agenda for the NSA talks that was mainly scheduled to discuss terror.

The Foreign Office statement said Pakistan has “carefully analysed” the contents of the press conference of Swaraj.

“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,” it said.

Referring to  MEA Swaraj’s statement, it said that while she accepts that, to ensure durable peace between the two countries, there is a need to discuss all outstanding issues, she then unilaterally restricts the agenda to only two items: creating an atmosphere free from terrorism and tranquility on the LoC.

Earlier in the day Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj appeared to be in a pugnacious mood when she announced in a packed press meet that Pakistan has till Saturday night to restrict to the agenda of terror and non-involvement of Hurriyat for talks to happen.

There will be no talks with Pakistan if it insists on making the Hurriyat a third party or discussing Kashmir, Swaraj said that in the spirit of the Simla agreement, there can be no third party, and in the spirit of the Ufa statement, the NSA-level talks would be limited to terrorism.