India uncertain on fate of planned high-level meetings with Pakistan

(From Agence France-Presse)

Indian officials said Sunday that the two planned meetings with Pakistani counterparts are now uncertain after talks between their national security advisers were cancelled Saturday amid a row over Kashmir.

Sushma Swaraj

Sushma Swaraj wanted the NDA-level talks to be confined to terrorism

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 Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said apart from Monday’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 (national security advisers) meet by Pakistan as unfortunate,” a senior foreign ministry official told AFP 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 separatist 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.

Last year India cancelled talks with Pakistan because of a meeting between Islamabad and Kashmiri separatist officials, a move that set back already tense relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

‘Pak decision unfortunate’

Home Minister Rajanth Singh said Sunday that Pakistan’s decision to call off the NSA-level talks was “unfortunate” as India wanted them to be held for better bilateral ties, PTI reports.

“It is unfortunate that Pakistan has called off the talks. India wanted to have talks,” Singh told reporters in Delhi.

Ye agenda pehle kyun nahi tey karliya? Ye (Kashmir) toh mudda kabhi thaa nahi. [They should have fixed the agenda beforehand. Kashmir was never on the talks agenda],” he said.

“India wants to have good relations with its neighbours,” he added.


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