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Pakistan declines to hold NSA talks based on India’s preconditions

ISLAMABAD: After carefully analyzed the contents of the press conference of the Indian Minister for External Affairs, Pakistan has 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, said the Foreign Office (FO) in a press statement.

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, read the statement.

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 added.

“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, said the FO.

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, the statement said.

Only two stakeholders in India-Pakistan talks, says Indian External Affairs Minister

Earlier, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has insisted that there are only two stakeholders in the talks between India and Pakistan and added that New Delhi is committed to discuss the issues peacefully and bilaterally.

Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz said in Islamabad that despite India’s detention of Hurriyat’s leaders he was willing to go to India to hold talks

Addressing a press conference here over the current status of India-Pakistan talks Indian minister said that the leaders of the two countries had agreed in Ufa for talks over terrorism and violence to create conducive atmosphere for dialogue over bilateral contentious issues.

She was of the view that according to the spirit of Simla agreement no third party could be involved in bilateral issues.

Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz was scheduled to meet his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval for the talks in New Delhi on Monday.

Referring Hurriyat leaders expected meeting with Sartaj Aziz at a reception at Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi, Swaraj said that pro-independence Kashmiri leaders could not be a party in dialogue.

The minister said that if Pakistan’s National Security Advisor wants to come he is welcome but talks will only be on terrorism and the agenda of talks will not be expanded to other issues.

Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz earlier in a news conference in Islamabad said that despite India’s detention of Hurriyat’s leaders — including Shabbir Shah who was detained an hour before Mr Aziz spoke — he was willing to go to India to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.

The adviser said that Pakistan was prepared to travel to New Delhi and discuss “all issues with India including Kashmir”. He said the whole world knew that Kashmir was a dispute between the two countries and that it was only to be expected that Pakistan would want to discuss it with India in talks, along with a host of other issues.

Mr Aziz also waved three dossiers to the journalists at the press conference he gave, saying that he would be taking these to Delhi and that they contained proof that the Government of Pakistan had of Indian intelligence agency RAW’s involvement in terrorist activities in Pakistan.

The adviser said that Pakistan was concerned about the detention of Hurriyat leaders by India and that this was a violation of their basic rights. He said that despite their detention he was still willing to go to India for talks. He said that the resumption of talks was something that had been decided between a recent meeting of the Indian and Pakistani prime minister in Russia and was a good step. Mr Aziz also said that it seemed as if Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to talk to Pakistan but not keep Kashmir on the agenda and that this was not something that Pakistan would be comfortable with.

The adviser said that global thinktanks and foreign policy experts should “carefully ponder over this important question: Is it conceivable that a country like India will cancel the first ministerial interaction between the two countries since Mr. Modi’s take over, on such flimsy grounds?”

He further said: “As always, India has been conducting a part of its diplomacy through the Indian media”, adding that in the run-up to the NSA meeting, the Indian media began saying that Pakistan was apprehensive of the dossier that Ajit Doval had prepared to hand to Pakistan. That is when he said that he himself had prepared three dossiers on RAW’s activities in Pakistan and that he would hand these over to Mr Doval on August 24, if the meeting went through.

He said India has not officially called of the meeting and the matter now rested with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Sartaj Aziz

Below is the full text of Mr Aziz’s opening statement at the Press Conference:

“I welcome you all to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I am very disappointed that India has virtually cancelled the first ever official talks between the National Security Advisers scheduled for 24 August.  On 17 August last year, India had unilaterally cancelled the talks between the two Foreign Secretaries scheduled for 25 August 2014, in Islamabad.  The reason for this regretful second cancellation if it is happening, would be the same: Why did the Pakistan High Commission invite three or four leaders from the Indian Occupied Kashmir to a reception organized in New Delhi on 23 August to enable me to meet a cross section of Indian political and business leaders.

“I expect that global think-tanks and foreign policy experts will carefully ponder over this important question: Is it conceivable that a country like India will cancel the first ministerial interaction between the two countries since Mr. Modi’s take over, on such flimsy grounds, especially when the main purpose of the meeting was to reduce tensions on the Line of Control and restore trust by addressing each other’s concerns regarding terrorist activities sitting across the table rather than through the media. Even more ironic is their alibi that Pakistan was trying to distort the agenda agreed at Ufa and was imposing “new conditions” for the talks.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

 

“The three point agenda proposed by Pakistan was fully in line with the Ufa statement. The first point called for discussion on all issues related to terrorism.

 

“The second point calls for reviewing progress on actual decisions made at Ufa i.e. prompt release of fishermen, better arrangements for religious tourism, and activation of mechanisms for restoring peace across the LOC and the Working Boundary. The third point was intended to explore the modalities for discussions on all other outstanding issues including Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen.

 

“India seems reluctant to recognize the significance of the most important sentence in the Ufa Statement:  “India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues”. The word ‘K’ is very much present in this sentence because everyone knows that the most important outstanding issue between the two countries is the future of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the UN resolutions.

 

“The statement of the Official Spokesperson of the Indian External Affairs Ministry that Pakistan has imposed new conditions totally ignores the last sentence of the note handed over to the Indian High Commission on 21 August that “Pakistan is ready to hold NSA talks without any preconditions”.  In fact it was India which introduced a new condition through its “advice” that Pakistan should not meet Hurriyat leaders, thus assuming the right to determine the guest list for the High Commissioner’s reception.

 

“The most hilarious part of the statement of the official Spokesperson of External Affairs Ministry is the sentence “The people of both countries can legitimately ask today what is the force that compels Pakistan to disregard the agreements reached by two elected leaders and sabotage their implementation”.

 

“The wishful narrative in the statement wants everyone to believe that only Pakistan’s military establishment is pushing the agenda towards the Kashmir issue.  It is surprising that the Indian foreign policy establishment with all its expertise, has not recognized the stark reality that in Pakistan not only the political leadership but the entire nation is fully committed to provide political, moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris struggling for their right of self-determination.

 

“As always, India has been conducting a part of its diplomacy through the Indian media. 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.  If I do not get this opportunity on 24 August, I hope I will get a chance to hand them over to Mr Doval in New York next month, if he accompanies Prime Minister Modi for the UN General Assembly.  After handing over these dossiers to Mr Doval, I can then also share them with the UN Secretary General.

 

“Meanwhile I can only urge Mr Modi to ponder over the most important part of the Ufa Statement (that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues) and think of ways and means of initiating serious dialogue on these outstanding issues.

 

“On my part, I am still prepared to go to New Delhi for NSA talks without any preconditions.”

Hurriyat leader Shabbir Shah detained by Delhi police ahead of invite by Pakistan High Commission

Meanwhile, earlier on Saturday, Indian police detained senior Hurriyat conference leader Shabbir Shah at Delhi airport. This happened after he arrived in India’s capital on an invitation by the Pakistani High Commission to meet Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz.

Several Indian channels reported that Mr Shah had been taken into custody, and it was clear that this was to prevent him from proceeding to the Pakistani High Commission which had invited him — as well as other Hurriyat leaders — to meet Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz who was scheduled to meet them ahead of his meeting with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.

Ajit Doval

Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval

 

Of course, that meeting itself is now in doubt because of Mr Shah’s arrest and the posturing by both countries ahead of the planned talks.

Meanwhile, Indian media also reported that Mr Doval was in a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Shabbir Shah

Senior Hurriyat leader Shabbir Shah

 

Earlier, it was reported by ARY News that India’s Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad called on Director General South Asia at Pakistan’s foreign ministry and informed him about cancellation of the talks between the two countries.

The bone of contention in the talks has been Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz’s scheduled meeting with Kashmiri pro-independence leaders at a reception at Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi.

Indian authorities demanding Pakistan not to hold talks with Hurriyat leaders who have been invited at the reception at Pakistan’s High Commission.

Earlier foreign office in Islamabad said that “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.”.

“These talks, which were scheduled to take place on 23 and 24 August, flowed from a decision taken by the two Prime Ministers on 10 July, in the Russian city of Ufa,” earlier the FO spokesperson.

“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.”

Tension between the two countries had increased alarmingly as a result of frequent violations on the Line of Control and Working Boundary, in the past months. The need of the hour was for the two countries to engage in sincere and serious dialogue to immediately reduce tensions and to undertake the task of normalization of relations, with sincerity and seriousness.

“The Pakistan High Commissioner’s invitation to the Kashmiri Hurriyat leadership to a reception in honour of the Adviser on 23 August, was very much in keeping with the practice and tradition of the past many years. Pakistan sees no reason to depart from this established practice,” the statement read.

“After all, the Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders are genuine stakeholders in efforts to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir dispute. 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.”

For the NSA talks in Delhi, Pakistan had proposed a comprehensive agenda, consistent with the decisions taken by the two Prime Ministers in Ufa, which included discussion on all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, as well as terrorism related matters, and other issues such as religious tourism, release of fishermen and peace and tranquility on the LoC. However, regrettably, the Indian side’s desire to restrict the agenda to terrorism related issues only, amounts to a negation of the decisions taken by the two Prime Ministers.

Line of Control

A file photo of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan

It is not Pakistan that has placed any condition for the talks. In fact, Pakistan  has always demonstrated its belief in the dialogue process and is prepared to engage in meaningful talks with India, to resolve all outstanding issues that have bedeviled relations between the two countries, for the past many decades.

Pakistan does not disregard agreements or understandings. It is the Indian side which has reneged on commitments agreed upon between the two Heads of Government in the past year.

Pakistan wishes to reiterate its abiding commitment to promoting a relationship of cordiality and cooperation with all its neighbours, including India, in pursuance of the Prime Minister’s vision of a peaceful neighbourhood.

Earlier in the day, India officially advised Pakistan to avoid Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz’s meeting with pro-independence leaders of Kashmir, Indian media reports on Friday.

Aziz expected to meet Hurriyat leaders ahead of the dialogue between the national security advisors of the two countries on Monday.

Indian media reported on Friday that New Delhi has also sought a confirmation from Islamabad for a dialogue agenda‎ which it had formally communicated to Pakistan on August 18.

“Such a meeting would not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Ufa understanding to jointly work to combat terrorism,” Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a tweet.

 

Pakistan says ‘NO’ to Indian advice

Responding to the “advice” of Government of India, conveyed by their High Commissioner that Mr. Sartaj Aziz may not meet the Hurriyat leaders during his forthcoming visit to India, the Foreign Secretary conveyed to the Indian High Commissioner that it would not be possible for Pakistan to accept this advice.

According to Foreign Office statement, Kashmir is a disputed territory as per the UN Security Council resolutions which remain unimplemented. Pakistani leadership has always interacted with the Kashmir/Hurriyat leadership, during their visits to India. Pakistan sees no reason to depart from this established past practice. The Hurriyat leaders are true representatives of the Kashmiri people of the Indian occupied Kashmir. Pakistan regards them as genuine stakeholders in the efforts to find a lasting solution of the Kashmir Dispute.

Pakistan has proposed and conveyed to India a comprehensive agenda reflecting the broad understanding reached between the leaders in Ufa, that all outstanding issues, including Kashmir and other disputes, as well as, terrorism issues and other CBMs will be discussed between the two countries. 

India’s insistence to introduce conditionalities and restrict the agenda for the dialogue, demonstrates a lack of seriousness on India’s part to meaningfully engage with Pakistan.

For its part, Pakistan remains willing to attend the NSAs meeting without any pre-conditions.

India has maintained that the talks between the top officials was meant to address all issues connected to terrorism.

Pakistan has said that the meeting with Hurriyat leaders will ensure a more “meaningful and result-oriented” dialogue between the national security advisors of Pakistan and India.

Indian authorities with brief house arrest of Hurriyat leaders, signalled their opposition to Pakistan’s gestures to engage Hurriyat leaders ahead of any dialogue with India. Pro-independence leaders of Kashmir are expected to be detained again while leaving for Delhi or immediately after they land in Delhi, Indian media reports said.

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