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India ready to revive NSA-level talks, Pakistan dithers

New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani: Diplomatic stand-off between India and Pakistan would have ended in New York, on eve of the UN General Assembly session last month, but for Islamabad’s insistence to combine National Security Advisor (NSA) meeting, as decided between the two prime ministers at the Russian city of Ufa, with a meeting of two foreign ministers as well. The Ufa joint statement, which focused on addressing India’s core concern of terrorism, but excluded Jammu and Kashmir, is fast becoming a political minefield for Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, almost re-enactment of the 2009 Sharm-el-Sheikh agreement, which put Manmohan Singh in a fix. To the chagrin of ruling Congress party, diplomatic community and opposition back home, Singh had agreed to include Pakistan’s concern on Baluchistan.


Official sources here said while India still remains interested in reviving the NSA talks as per Ufa understanding, Pakistan was trying to sidestep centrality to the issue of terrorism, by incorporating other issues to please its domestic politics. On the issue of Sharif’s invitation to Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani to visit Pakistan, sources said, India views it with concern and Islamabad must know, that in the past, when India allowed such contacts, contexts were different. “The issue is that there has to be a recognition that terrorism cannot be an instrument of statecraft and you cannot say it was only Gurudaspur attack, why are you overreacting or an attack on BSF, why are you overreacting. It cannot be a routine way. There has to be recognition that non-practise of terrorism is central to the betterment of the relationship. If they are in denial of that (that is an issue),” said a senior official.

Sources here further said that India was not asking for too much, but only a commitment that a country cannot resort to terrorism as a way of pressurising the other. They clarified that India has an issue if the manner of consultation or discussions or whatever way Pakistan interacts with the Hurriyat in a manner to project them as a third party.

India had proposed the NSA-level meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York last month but the proposal was abandoned after Pakistan insisted that such a meeting also be accompanied by a dialogue between the foreign ministers. Sources here said Islamabad wanted its NSA Sartaj Aziz, who is also its foreign minister, to have a separate dialogue with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj as condition for talks between Aziz and India’s NSA Ajit Doval. Last August when the NSA talks were aborted, India had carefully selected August 23 for talks, making sure that Swaraj was in Egypt, to abort any chance of interaction between two foreign ministers. In such an eventuality, Pakistan would have succeeded in diverting focus from terrorism to other issues. India also prevented a meeting between the foreign secretaries saying that this was not what was decided in Ufa. The Ufa statement only mentioned a meeting between the NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terror. Other meetings agreed to were between the DGMOs and BSF and Pakistan Rangers.

In Ufa, Sharif wanted a mention of J&K but was prevailed upon by the Indian side to leave that out and make do only with a reference to the need for discussing “all outstanding issues”.

However, with the BJP projecting the statement as a victory for India, Sharif’s position became precarious on domestic turf. Experts say, Ufa was becoming a political slip for Sharif as much Sharm-el-Sheikh agreement became for Manmohan Singh.

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