- US ‘disappointed’ over cancellation of Pak-Indo talks, encourages resumption of formal dialogue soon
- Congress blames BJP govt for ‘being played into Pak’s hands by being imprecise, unprepared’
- Kashmiri leaders term event ‘unfortunate’, however laud Pak for taking stand on Kashmir issue
While Indian officials have expressed scepticism over two planned high-level meetings with their Pakistani counterparts after the cancellation of scheduled talks between the national security advisers (NSAs) of the two countries, the United States said on Sunday it was “disappointed” over the cancellation.
“We are disappointed the talks will not happen this weekend and encourage India and Pakistan to resume formal dialogue soon,” US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said.
The spokesperson continued that the “constructive interaction” between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in Ufa, Russia, had been encouraging.
“We were encouraged by the constructive interaction between the leaders of India and Pakistan earlier this year at Ufa, particularly the announcement of dialogue between the countries’ national security advisers,” Kirby said.
INDIA IN LINE OF FIRE:
In the meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed has also expressed disappointment over the cancellation of talks while his predecessor Farooq Abdullah put the blame on freedom leaders who in turn accused India for the development.
Sayeed hoped that “the break in talks would be temporary”. He had a veiled advice for Pakistan and freedom leaders too, saying, “It is neither warranted nor desirable to insist upon all-inclusive participation, directly or indirectly, in each and every bilateral meeting, like that between the two NSAs.”
Abdullah’s son and another former chief minister Omar Abdullah, while expressing disappointment over the development, said he expected this to be the fate of the proposed talks going by last year’s experience when India cancelled foreign secretary-level talks over Hurriyat issue.
Moderate Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said calling off of the talks was “unfortunate”.
“Yet another opportunity lost by both the countries to engage with each other. The last nail in the coffin was put by Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj when she made it clear that there will not be any talks on Kashmir. Instead of moving forward, we are only moving backwards,” he said.
Another freedom leader Shabir Shah, who continues to be under house-arrest at the guest house in South Delhi, said he was disappointed that the talks had been cancelled.
Hurriyat Conference, headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, also termed the cancellation of NSA talks as unfortunate but said “at the end of the day, it is a diplomatic victory for us as well as Pakistan”.
Ayaz Akbar, spokesman for the group, said, “A message has gone to the world that Kashmir issue is not a bilateral territorial dispute between India and Pakistan and that people of Jammu and Kashmir are the principal party to it. The fanatic approach adopted by government is not practicable. How long will New Delhi pursue this policy?”
BJP PLAYED INTO PAK HANDS, SAYS CONGRESS:
On the other hand, the Indian opposition Congress on Sunday charged the Bhartia Janta Party (BJP) government with “having played into the hands of Pakistan” on the NSA-level talks’ issue.
“Unfortunately, the government of India has played into its (Pakistan’s) hands by being imprecise, by being unprepared, by lacking focus, by being ad-hoc, by not doing sufficient hard-nosed groundwork, good old-fashioned diplomacy and preparation,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.
“We are very sad that all the gains of the last 10-odd years on Indo-Pak settlement of at least some issues are given a setback by such aborted talks. No such opportunity should have been given to Pakistan to wriggle out of as serious an issue as terror,” Singhvi added.
“I think the government needs to get its house in order. It needs to make sure that multiple agencies, which suddenly appear to have started making Indian foreign policy, either the multiplicity is eliminated or complete unity and coherence are introduced in all those multiple agencies to speak through one agency and in one voice,” he said.
TALK NO MORE:
Pakistan said late Saturday it could not accept India’s “preconditions” for the talks which had been scheduled for Sunday in New Delhi, effectively cancelling them.
Indian FM Sushma Swaraj said Saturday that apart from Sunday’s meeting two other high-level meetings of officials had been planned to discuss border and ceasefire violations.
Cross-border shelling in Kashmir this month has caused several civilian deaths on both sides.
The minister said the meetings plan had been agreed by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif when they met in the Russian city of Ufa last month.
“We have already described the cancellation of NSAs meet by Pakistan as unfortunate,” a senior foreign ministry official told a foreign news outfit on Sunday, referring to an earlier Tweet by the ministry.
“Now, the fate of those other two meetings is also not clear. It will take a few days for some more clarity.”
Swaraj had given Islamabad till Saturday midnight to agree to restrict the NSA talks to “terrorism only” after a row over Pakistan’s plan to meet Kashmiri freedom leaders and its insistence on broadening the scope of the talks.
Swaraj insisted that what Pakistan described as “preconditions” were actually “the agenda for NSAs meet which both leaders agreed to in Ufa”.
In response to Swaraj’s comments, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said, “The scheduled NSA-level talks cannot be held on the basis of the preconditions set by India.”
“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 minister,” it said in a statement.