New Delhi | A deadlock over Kashmiri separatist leaders today cast a cloud of uncertainty over the upcoming Indo-Pak NSA-level meeting after the two countries engaged in strong exchanges but neither side was willing to blink.
Even as it appeared that the prospects of talks have dimmed, Pakistan tonight said that hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani would be meeting its National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz at 9.30 AM on Monday, apparently ahead of his scheduled discussions with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.
India having made it clear that a meeting between the separatists and Aziz was not acceptable to it, the scheduling of the Geelani-Aziz meeting introduced a new twist into the drama.
Geelani was among the separatist leaders who was briefly detained in Srinagar yesterday and it would be a surprise if he is allowed to travel here for the meeting. The onus would then be on Pakistan on either still going ahead with the talks or calling them off.
Drawing a redline, earlier India had made it clear to Pakistan that a meeting between the separatists and Aziz was not appropriate. Pakistan reacted strongly to insist that it would not depart from the established past practice of interacting with separatist Hurriyat leaders, rejecting India’s advice not to go ahead with their meeting with Aziz.
India hit back describing the invitation to Hurriyat representatives as a provocative action and accused Pakistan of trying to evade its commitment to engage in a substantive discussion on terrorism as had been agreed between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa (Russia) last month.
It said that Islamabad’s insistence on meeting Hurriyat leaders as a pre-condition was a complete departure from the Ufa understanding. Moreover, India has always held the position that there are only two, not three, stakeholders in the bilateral relationship.
Unilateral imposition of new conditions and distortion of the agreed agenda cannot be the basis for going forward, External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.