Commonwealth Meet Off, India Sends Signal by 'Arrest and Release' of Separatists

Published: 21st August 2015 03:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st August 2015 03:22 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI:  It was a day of signalling. Pakistan on Thursday cancelled the Commonwealth Parliamentary Union next month to showcase its uncompromising stance on Kashmir, while India detained and released Hurriyat leaders in Srinagar, with an underlying threat of harsher action if Pakistan National Security Advisor (NSA) Sartaj Aziz met with the separatists in Delhi, and to keep the K-word off the agenda.

About two weeks after India had threatened to boycott the Commonwealth Parliamentary Union after J&K did not get an invitation, Pakistan National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq said that Islamabad was unable to host the 61st Commonwealth Parliamentary Union, as it could not violate United Nations Security Council resolutions.

“We have clarified to the London Secretariat of the Commonwealth that Kashmir is a disputed territory and now it is impossible for the Commonwealth Conference to be held in Pakistan,” Ayaz Sadiq told reporters. Pakistan positioned this move ahead of the NSA-level talks with India to indicate that Kashmir will be its sole priority. “A detailed letter will be written to the CPA countries over the Kashmir dispute and the issue will be raised on every forum of the Commonwealth,” Sadiq said. India had rejected any effort to bring in Kashmir by backdoor into the agenda of the talks, pointing out that the Ufa statement by two leaders tasked the NSAs to discuss only terrorism.

Official sources said that India from the beginning had been against ‘injection of any third party’ into bilateral issues. “We are not against Hurriyat, but against any role of a third party in a purely bilateral matter,” said a source. The ‘house arrest’ of the Hurriyat leaders, and their subsequent release within a few hours, were being described by official sources as a ‘signal to Pakistan’.

“We are saying that we will not allow the Hurriyat to meet with the Pakistani delegation. That we will not hesitate to go beyond house arrest to stop them,” said a senior official.  The Pakistan High Commission has invited all Hurriyat leaders to meet with Aziz on Sunday and for a dinner reception in Delhi. However, it is very unlikely that this meeting, scheduled before the main meeting between Aziz and NSA Ajit Doval on Monday, will be allowed by Indian authorities, said sources. 

When asked about Pakistan’s reaction to a possible arrest of Hurriyat leaders, government sources said, “Pakistan can call off the talks, but then the onus will be on them for cancelling it”. In August last, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh refused to go to Islamabad after Pakistan envoy Abdul Basit met with Hurriyat leaders despite a warning.

Earlier on Thursday, the Pakistan foreign office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said that Pakistan “expects India to allow Kashmiri leaders to meet the Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs”.

“Kashmiris are important stakeholders in the context of the J&K dispute and efforts to seek its peaceful settlement in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions,” he said.

When Pakistan toyed with the idea of involving a third party, Hurriyat, during the NSA-level talks, the ruling party had sent a strong message. BJP sources said that government had made it clear that if Pakistan met Kashmiri separatists before the NSA meet, then there would be no meaning in even holding such talks.

Explaining the reason behind NSA-level talks despite cease fire violations, the ruling party sources said that the focus was on discussing terrorism with Islamabad. “It is an achievement that Pakistan has been brought to the discussion table on the issue of terrorism where evidence will be presented to them. This is a huge shift from the policy adopted by the previous UPA government in dealing with the neighbouring country,” a BJP leader said.  

NSA will talk to separatists: Pakistan

After the day’s developments, a Pakistan High Commission official confirmed on Thursday that National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz would be coming to Delhi as per plan, and also that the meeting with the Hurriyat was going ahead.

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