NEW DELHI: After dragging its feet, Pakistan Prime Minister’s advisor on foreign affairs and national security, Sartaj Aziz confirmed that he will hold first ever talks with India’s national security advisor Ajit Doval in Delhi on August 23-24, even as Indian establishment is getting primed up for the meeting with lists of fugitives and latest location of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
“Yes, I can confirm it that I will be going to India on [August] 23rd for talks,” Sartaj Aziz said on Wednesday morning. His words ended weeks of suspense on whether Pakistan would come to the table for talks, following recriminations over cross-border firing, shooting down of an ‘Indian’ drone, Gurdaspur attack and high-profile arrest of a Pakistani terrorist in Udhampur.
India, as the host country, had given the dates of Aug 23-24 to Pakistan over two weeks ago. While Aziz publicly announced his assent publicly, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that India still hadn’t received the official confirmation.
The NSA-level meeting, which is the first such talks between India and Pakistan, is one of the five steps agreed by both sides at Ufa on July 10. The two leaders had agreed that both NSAs will talk “all issues connected to terrorism”.
Incidentally when asked about the delay in confirmation, Pakistani diplomatic sources had earlier said that Islamabad was monitoring whether a proper environment was there to hold the NSA meeting.
They complained that India was vitiating the atmosphere by pointing finger at Pakistan relentlessly following the Gurdaspur encounter, as well as the ambush on an Army truck in Udhampur, and subsequent prime-time questioning of a Pakistani terrorist. On Wednesday morning, NSA Doval chaired a meeting attended by senior home ministry officials to prepare for the India-Pakistan bilateral meeting.
As per sources, a new list of fugitives was being prepared to be presented to the Pakistani side. Indian officials were also getting ready the latest transcripts to show that underworld don and one of India’s most wanted Dawood Ibrahim was in Pakistani territory. India will, of course, raise the tardy progress of the 26/11 trial, with mastermind Zaki-ur-rehman Lakhvi out on bail. This was also raised by India during the Ufa talks and became one of the five outcomes. “Both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples,” said a statement read out jointly by the Indian and Pakistan foreign secretaries.
Since India will bring up 26/11, Pakistan would certainly mention Samjhauta express bombing, as well as the recent decision by National Investigative Agency to not challenge accused Swami Aseemanand’s conditional bail. “We are anticipating that they will raise this point. We will tell them that Swami Aseemanand is still behind bars and not out on bail like Lakhvi,” said a source.
While the visit of Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif for Modi’s swearing-in ceremony had raised expectations of warmer relations, cancellation of Indian foreign secretary’s visit to Islamabad following a meeting between Hurriyat leaders and Pakistani envoy, started the downslide. It was punctuated by some blips when Sharif and Modi shook hands at Kathmandu’s Saarc summit and when Indian PM asked for Indian schools to hold morning prayers for the victims of Peshawar school massacre. Thereafter, foreign secretary’s visit to Islamabad in February as part of Saarc yatra, as well as the phone call by Modi to Sharif to mark the start of Ramzan, thawed frozen ties enough for the Ufa face-to-face bilateral talks – their first substantive meeting since May 2014.