New Delhi: Taking a tough stance, India on Friday said it had advised Pakistan that it would “not be appropriate” for its NSA, Sartaj Aziz, to meet Hurriyat representatives here ahead of a meeting with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.
“India advised Pakistan yesterday (Thursday) that it would not be appropriate for Sartaz Aziz to meet with Hurriyat representatives in India,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
“Such a meeting would not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Ufa understanding to jointly work to combat terrorism,” he said.
“We have also sought confirmation of our proposed agenda for the National Security Advisor(NSA)-level talks, which was conveyed to the Pakistani side on August 18, he said in a statement.
The government’s reaction comes in the wake of Pakistan’s invite to Kashmiri separatist leaders ahead of the NSA talks on August 23-24.
Separatist leaders in Jammu and Kashmir said the Pakistan envoy in Delhi invited them for talks with Sartaj Aziz before his parleys with Doval.
Both the factions of the Hurriyat Conference headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and other separatist leaders such as Yasin Malik and Naeem Khan have been invited by Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit for talks on August 23.
At the July 10 talks in Ufa, Russia, between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, both sides issued a joint statement on a meeting between the two NSAs in New Delhi to discuss terrorism-related issues.
Since the mandate for the national security advisors is to discuss only terrorism- related issues, Kashmir would not figure and thus Aziz’s meeting with Kashmiri separatists does not make sense, sources said.
Aziz will arrive in the national capital on August 23 and meet Hurriyat leaders at a reception at Pakistan House, the High Commissioner’s residence, that evening.
India maintains that the Pakistani invite to Kashmiri separatist leaders was “designed to scuttle” the NSA talks, and follows a typical pattern of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment since the Ufa talks to heighten tension.
From July 11 itself, tension was ratcheted up by Pakistan over the Ufa meeting, followed by cross-border firings, in which mortar shells were used; then the Gurdaspur and Udhampur terror attacks followed; and the latest is the invite to the Hurriyat to meet Aziz.
“The game plan is very clear – to scuttle the talks from day one,” said sources.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Manish Tewari on Friday criticised the government’s move on Pakistan, saying: “The government is making a fool of itself.”
“The manner in which Aziz and Pakistan are conducting themselvs makes it clear that Pakistan is not interested in dialogue. Aziz has not even sent his itinerary as yet,” said Tewari.
The Congress leader said Modi should “make clear to the nation if he was under international pressure to talk to Pakistan”.
He said former BJP minister Yashwant Sinha had termed the move to go ahead with the NSA talks as “delusional”.
Another Congress leader and former minister R.P.N. Singh criticised the government’s “flip-flops” which, he said, “does not give a strong message to Pakistan”.
He said that between the Ufa and the NSA talks, “so much terrorism has taken place”, including terror attacks in Punjab after 20 years and border firings in which several civilians have been killed.
In a flip-flop on Thursday, the Jammu and Kashmir government first placed senior Kashmiri separatist leaders under house arrest in Srinagar, only to release them within an hour.
The move drew a jibe from former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah who said on Twitter: “Why? No absence of coordination, Centre says arrest, so arrested; centre says release, so released. Perfect coordination.”