New Delhi: Crucial talks between India and Pakistan are precariously placed with both sides taking extreme positions on whether the agenda can include Kashmir and whether separatists from the state can meet with Sartaj Aziz, who is scheduled to hold talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
India has signalled that those factors are deal-breakers. In response, sources in the Pakistani government have told India “they will not take dictation” from Delhi and will not accept conditions for the talks.
Tension over do’s and don’ts has hiked in the last 48 hours. Three separatist leaders were placed under brief house arrest in Srinagar yesterday – a signal, India said, that it will prevent them from meeting with Mr Aziz at the Pakistani High Commission on Sunday.
Sources in Pakistan said the meeting with the Hurriyat leaders has been rescheduled to Monday – that is being by some as an attempt to offer a compromise. If the separatists meet with Mr Aziz after the NSA talks are held, India can claim that the Hurriyat was not consulted and made a third party to the dialogue; equally, Pakistan can declare that it did not revoke the invite to the separatists.
However, sources in the Indian government say that no conference of any sort between Mr Aziz and the Hurriyat is tolerable.
“India has advised Pakistan yesterday that it would not be appropriate for Mr Sartaz Aziz to meet with Hurriyat (separatist) representatives in India,” foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said on Twitter.
Pakistan has, in the past, described such meetings with pro-independence leaders as a “longstanding practice” to “facilitate meaningful discussions”.
Though earlier governments have grudgingly accepted such meetings, the Narendra Modi administration cancelled foreign secretary talks between the two countries last July over a similar invite to the separatists.
Prime Minister Modi met Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif during a visit to the Russian city of Ufa last month, with the hour-long talks seen as a new thaw in ties between the countries.