NEW DELHI: The invite to Kashmiri separatist leaders to meet Pakistani National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz during his scheduled visit here for the NSA-level talks is being viewed as yet another provocation from Islamabad to force New Delhi to call off the NSA-level talks next week.
India has promised an “appropriate response” if the NSA and separatist leaders go ahead with the meeting.
With only four days left for Aziz to land here, Pakistan High Commission on Wednesday confirmed that they are working to get Hurriyat Conference leader Sayed Ali Shah Geelani to have an audience with the visiting Pakistani official. And Geelani is expected to join Aziz for an exclusive dinner on Sunday evening. “We haven’t still worked out the schedule yet. It will be clear by tomorrow (Thursday), but the meeting (with the Hurriyat leader) would most likely take place before the (NSA-level) meeting,” said a Pakistani diplomat on Wednesday evening.
Aziz is scheduled to meet his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on Monday. Islamabad is using the meeting with the Hurriyat leader as a red rag to get New Delhi to unilaterally cancel the meeting, just like it did last year, the South Block believes.
There was no official response from the South Block, but indignation was high on Raisina Hill. “Let’s see what happens. We are monitoring the situation. The government will give an appropriate response,” they said.
The first NSA-level meeting is an outcome of the discussions between Indian and Pakistan Prime Ministers on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on July 10 in Ufa.
Even though Indian officials said they were aware that Islamabad does not want the talks, New Delhi wants to go ahead. “Pakistan does not seem to be serious. But, we need to raise terror with Pakistan. Who else do we talk to?” said a government official, adding, “Talks and terror cannot go hand in hand, but talks on terror are a must”.
The government’s dilemma also arises from the fact that last year India had cancelled the visit of the then Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh to Islamabad after Pakistan envoy met Hurriyat leaders in New Delhi.
That decision was taken by Narendra Modi-led NDA Government as a contrast to the pusillanimous Pakistan policy of the erstwhile UPA regime. “This is a red line we have drawn,” the MEA spokesperson had said in August, “We have told Pakistan - you either talk to us, or to them (Kashmiri separatists).”
“It is the same situation now (about NSA-level talks). We are only talking about terrorism. Not about Kashmir and terrorism only have a perpetrator and a victim. There is no third party here,” said an official source.
That Pakistan has yet to decide on Aziz’s schedule is telling-- as both sides jostle to see if there is room for manoeuvre. The timing of the Hurriyat meeting-- whether before or after the NSA talk on August 24-- may become a face-saver, though, Indian officials are adamant about their position so far.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has apparently send its agenda for talks, which, includes Balochistan insurgency that it claims is fuelled by India. As the host country, India has the prerogative to set the agenda, “We will not allow Pakistan to use Balochistan or Afghanistan to put the spotlight on India”.