Modi sets terms for engagement with Pak

New Delhi sticks to traditional stand

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first public comments since India called off high-level talks with Pakistan have left little doubt about New Delhi’s terms for engagement with Islamabad, officials say.

One, India has no hesitation to discuss any outstanding issue with Pakistan but it will be within the bilateral framework that has been established under the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.

Secondly, India will not encourage any Pakistani bid to involve “secessionist elements” from Jammu & Kashmir in the dialogue with New Delhi though previous Indian governments, including that of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, might have looked askance at such engagements.

Officials said Pakistan must note the tone and tenor of Modi’s comment made to the Japanese media before he left for Japan.

By emphasising on the Simla Pact of 1972 and Lahore Declaration of 1999, Modi is making it clear that he is not putting any new condition for talks with Pakistan. But, he is again underlining India’s traditional position: issues between two nuclear neighbours must be settled bilaterally and there’s no role for any third party including the UN.  Also, terrorism and talks cannot go together, officials said.

India had cancelled the talks scheduled for August 25 after the Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit invited Hurriyat leaders for dialogue before Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh’s scheduled departure for Pakistan.

According to a transcript posted on the website of the Ministry of External Affairs, Modi told the Japanese media ahead of his visit to Japan that Pakistan had made a “spectacle” of efforts to resolve outstanding issues between the two countries by engaging separatist Hurriyat leaders in dialogue ahead of the now cancelled foreign secretary-level talks.

Modi said India still desires peaceful, friendly and cooperative ties with Pakistan. “India has no hesitation to discuss any outstanding issue with Pakistan within the bilateral framework that has been established under the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration,” he said.

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