Sparring over Hurriyat-Aziz meeting clouds NSA talks

RSTV Bureau

FILE: File photo of hardline Kashmiri separatist leader SAS Geelani in Srinagar. Photo – PTI

Hours after the government of India strongly conveyed Islamabad to rethink on its dialogue with Kashmiri separatist leaders, Pakistan said that it was “deeply disappointed” at the “pre-conditions” for NSA-level talks between Ajit Doval and Sartaj Aziz. The much vaunted NSA-level talks, scheduled to begin on August 23 in New Delhi, has run into a deep trouble after the Pakistan High Commission inviting Kashmiri separatist leaders to hold talks with its PM’s advisor of National Security and Foreign Affiars Sartaj Aziz.

“We are deeply disappointed at the statement of the Spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, putting forth pre-conditions for official talks to take place with Pakistan at the level of the National Security Advisors,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson told the eagerly waiting press in Islamabad late on Friday evening.

The Pakistan establishment further insisted that it would not depart from the “established past practice” of interacting with separatist Hurriyat leaders, rejecting India’s advice in the process.

Earlier in the day, Modi government had categorically asserted its point of view over the meeting between the Kashmiri separatist leaders and Aziz, as devised by Pakistan establishment just few days before the slated NSA talks.

“India has advised Pakistan yesterday that it would not be appropriate for Sartaz Aziz to meet with Hurriyat representatives in India,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup told the press early on Friday.

“Such a meeting would not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the understanding reached at UFA,” the MEA spokesperson added further.

Modi-Nawaz-PIB-2-editThe day saw several rounds of deliberations at various levels leading to Pakistan Foreign Office making a late night statement claiming, “this is the second time that India has chosen to go back on a decision mutually agreed upon between the two Prime Ministers, to engage in a comprehensive dialogue, by coming up with frivolous pretexts”.

“For India to refuse to engage in talks with Pakistan on this pretext, is a repeat of what it did when it cancelled the Foreign Secretary level talks that were scheduled to be held on 25 August last year, pursuant to the meeting between the two Prime Ministers in Delhi in May 2014,” the Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson further added.

Reacting to the statement, Union External Affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup accused Pakistan of distorting the agreed agenda of talks between the two nations by “imposing” new conditions.

“Unilateral imposition of new conditions and distortion of the agreed agenda cannot be the basis for going forward,” External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup had said.

Though there has been no let up in the exchange of strong words fueling speculations on the fate of the NSA-level talks, none of the sides has backtracked or revised their stated position on the talks.

(With inputs from the PTI)