NSA-level talks in limbo; India not ready if Pakistan insists on roping in separatists

Sushma Swaraj, Sartaj Aziz

New Delhi, Aug 22: The Indo-Pak NSA-level talks remained in limbo on Saturday with neither side willing to blink first on a day of sharp public exchanges with India making it clear that the talks would not take place if Pakistan insists on discussing Kashmir and ropes in separatists.

With less than 24 hours to go for Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz’s arrival here, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told a press conference that Pakistan had only till tonight to give a categorical assurance on these two issues.

“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.

Swaraj repeatedly emphasised that she was not laying down any pre-condition for the talks between Aziz and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval scheduled for Monday.

She said she was only invoking the Shimla spirit under which two countries are committed to resolving issues bilaterally and the recent agreement in Ufa where Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif had agreed that the NSAs would meet only to discuss terror.

Meanwhile, India has described the invitation to Hurriyat representatives as a “provocative action” and accused Pakistan of trying to evade its commitment to engage in a substantive discussion on terrorism as had been agreed between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa (Russia) last month.

It said that Islamabad’s insistence on meeting Hurriyat leaders as a pre-condition was a complete departure from the Ufa understanding. Moreover, India has always held the position that there are only two, not three, stakeholders in the bilateral relationship.

Earlier in the day, separatist leader Bilal Lone was detained at the Delhi Airport by the authorities ahead of his meeting with Pakistan NSA, Sartaj Aziz. Lone has reportedly been taken to his residence in the national capital.

Hurriyat leader Shabir Ahmad Shah along with his two associates was also detained by the police.

Speaking to media in Srinagar, Shah said: “We will meet Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz ji tomorrow at the Pakistan House in the evening,” adding “We have been going since 25 years to meet with Pakistan, be it, NDA government led by Atal ji or UPA.”

The separatist leader asserted that peaceful dialogue is the only way to resolve issues, adding: “If India doesn’t hold talks how will peace be established in South-Asia?”

“We will not back out. We will go to Delhi and meet them. It is important for us to go so that we can seek answers from Pakistan’s side also,” he added.

(With Agency Inputs)

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