Pakistan Wanted Foreign Secretaries To Talk On Kashmir On The Fringes Of NSA-level Dialogue

28 August 2015
Times of India
Sachin Parashar

New Delhi: After India and Pakistan publicly sparred over Hurriyat and accused each other of tampering with the Ufa agenda, Islamabad has now alleged it was the failure to ensure a meeting between its foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar which finally put paid to any hope of holding the NSA-level dialogue. On August 21, three days before the scheduled meeting between NSA Ajit Doval and his counterpart Sartaj Aziz, India officially conveyed to Pakistan that a meeting between the foreign secretaries was not possible. Indian officials said a meeting between the foreign secretaries wasn't part of the understanding the two sides arrived at in the Ufa meeting between PM Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif on July 10. According to India, the meeting was suggested as an afterthought and after it had become evident that Pakistan wasn't interested in holding NSA talks, going by the delay on the part of Islamabad in confirming the dates for talks. Pakistan had proposed the meeting, on the sidelines of NSA dialogue, to discuss modalities for further discussions on what it describes as the core issue of Kashmir. This was apparently important for Sharif himself as he was keen to convey at home that the issue remained as significant as ever for Pakistan, after he allowed India to not mention J&K in the Ufa statement. The Ufa statement did not mention any meeting between the foreign secretaries. Pakistan believes that the NSA talks were taking place after two crucial back-to-back concessions by Sharif-led civilian government to India. Sharif backtracked in Ufa after initially insisting that J&K be mentioned in the statement read out jointly by the foreign secretaries. This was after India insisted that the mention of 'all outstanding issues' in the statement was enough to convey Pakistan's focus on the Kashmir issue in the meeting between Sharif and Modi. Sharif relented, as top sources confirmed to TOI, in a decision which was completely his own. Indian officials and the BJP were quick to project no mention of J&K and condemnation of terrorism 'in all its forms' in the Ufa statement as a victory for India. The second concession, claims Pakistan , is the fact that Aziz agreed to come to India for a dialogue with Doval despite the latter's relatively junior status in the government. As adviser to Sharif on foreign and security affairs, Aziz is effectively the foreign minister of Pakistan and enjoys the status of a cabinet minister. Doval is a secretary rank official. While India has sought to qualify its position by not blaming Pakistan's civilian government for the spurt in ceasefire violations, or even the collapse of talks, Pakistan describes it as a self-serving contention. 'Coming after the Ufa concession by Sharif, agreeing to Sushma Swaraj's preconditions would have been suicidal for the Pakistan government, pressure or no pressure from authorities which India is talking about,' said a Pakistan source. '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,' said India in a statement on August 21, insinuating that Sharif was acting under pressure from the pak Army. The statement followed Pakistan's rejection of an Indian advisory that Aziz not go ahead with his meetings with Hurriyat leaders. In her press briefing on August 22, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj declared that NSA talks could only take place if Pakistan agreed to a terror-only agenda and Aziz refrained from meeting the Kashmir separatists, both described as preconditions by Islamabad. Swaraj blamed Pakistan for focusing only on the 'preamble' of the Ufa statement which referred to all outstanding issues and for ignoring the operative portion which mentioned dialogue between NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.