Pak says 'no' to India's terms, calls off meet

Decision unfortunate, didn't set preconditions: Delhi

Pak says 'no' to India's terms, calls off meet

Pakistan called off the proposed meeting between its Prime Minister’s National Security Adviser (NSA) Sartaj Aziz and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval late night on Saturday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Pakistan government stated that the “scheduled NSA-level talks cannot be held on the basis of the preconditions set by India”.

The statement came hours after New Delhi did some plain speak and drew two red-lines for Islamabad.  External Affairs Minister Spokesperson Vikas Swarup reacted, “Pakistan's decision is unfortunate. India did not set any preconditions.”

India made it clear to Pakistan that the proposed parleys between the NSAs would not take place if Islamabad did not drop by midnight its insistence on discussing Kashmir and making the separatists a third party in the bilateral engagement.

“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 (Indian) minister,” the Foreign Office of Pakistan government stated in Islamabad.

Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj pointed out that when Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister M Nawaz Sharif had met at Ufa in Russia on July 10, they had assigned their NSAs to meet and discuss “all issues connected to terrorism”. The NSAs had not been mandated to discuss Kashmir.

Her remarks came after Aziz told journalists in Islamabad he was still willing to travel to New Delhi for the talks, but the agenda should include Kashmir.

Sharif’s Foreign Affairs and NSA also said he would meet Hurriyat Conference and other Kashmiri separatist leaders in New Delhi before his meeting with Doval, no matter how strongly New Delhi disapproved of it. Aziz was scheduled to arrive in New Delhi on Sunday and meet Doval on Monday.

However, Islamabad’s move to arrange Aziz’s consultations with Kashmiri separatist leaders irked New Delhi and cast a shadow over the talks.

“He (Aziz) said (in Islamabad) he would wait for my press conference (to know India's response). I am responding: If you come for talks, you are most welcome.
But do not make the Hurriyat Conference a party (in the bilateral engagement) and do not seek to include (in the agenda) any issue other than terror,” said Swaraj.

She, however, made it clear that India was also ready to discuss with Pakistan all outstanding issues, including Kashmir. 
But the two prime ministers had agreed in Ufa that the NSA-level talks would focus on terrorism, a roadblock in the resumption of bilateral dialogue.

Modi and Sharif had also agreed in Ufa that the Doval-Aziz talks would be followed by two other meetings — between the chiefs of India’s Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers, and between the two countries' Directors General of Military Operations — to explore ways to avert ceasefire violations.

Swaraj said the meetings have led to the restart of bilateral dialogues, which would have included the Kashmir issue.

The India-Pakistan structured dialogue has focused on counter-terrorism (including progress on trial of the 26/11 accused in Pakistan), narcotics control, humanitarian matters, commercial and economic cooperation.

 It also includes row over the Wullar Barrage or the Tulbul Navigation Project, disputes over Sir Creek and Siachen, confidence-building measures, Jammu and Kashmir and promotion of friendly exchanges.

The dialogue was suspended after November 26, 2008, terror attacks in Mumbai, resumed in March 2011, but paused again in January 2013 after the beheading of an Indian Army soldier on the Line of Control.

Aziz said India’s demand that he not meet Kashmiri separatist leaders was almost tantamount to controlling the guest list for a reception being held for him at the Pakistan High Commission.

He said he was prepared to go to Delhi for talks without any preconditions. Sushma Swaraj, however, said New Delhi was not adding any precondition as the role of Hurriyat Conference or any third party in India-Pakistan discussions on Kashmir had been ruled out by the Simla Agreement of 1972.

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