NEW DELHI: The Indo-Pak NSA-level talks remained in limbo today with neither side willing to blink first on a day of sharp public exchanges with India making it clear that the talks would not take place if Pakistan insists on discussing Kashmir and ropes in separatists.
With less than 24 hours to go for Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz's arrival here, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told a press conference that Pakistan had only till tonight to give a categorical assurance on these two issues.
"There will be no talks," Swaraj declared when asked what would happen if Pakistan did not accept the position outlined by her on separatists and Kashmir.
Swaraj repeatedly emphasised that she was not laying down any pre-condition for the talks between Aziz and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval scheduled for Monday.
She said she was only invoking the Shimla spirit under which two countries are committed to resolving issues bilaterally and the recent agreement in Ufa where Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif had agreed that the NSAs would meet only to discuss terror.
Swaraj met reporters here about three hours after Aziz held a press conference in Islamabad at which he said he was prepared to Delhi for talks without any pre-conditions.
He was sharply critical of the Indian government for its insistence that he should not meet Kashmiri separatist leaders while in New Delhi and said this was akin to controlling the guest list for a reception being held for him at the Pakistan High Commission tomorrow.
It was clear that neither side was willing to take the onus of calling off the talks even as the possibility of them taking place was fast receding.
India's determination not to allow the Hurriyat to be a party to Indo-Pak dialogue was reflected in the detention of one of the separatist leaders Shabbir Shah as soon as he arrived in New Delhi for attending the scheduled reception for Aziz in the Pakistan High Commission tomorrow.
Swaraj accused Pakistan of trying to undermine the NSA talks under pressure from "known sources" in Pakistan which were opposed to dialogue with India.
It was Pakistan, and not India, that was running away from the dialogue. If the Hurriyat leaders are kept away and issues other than terror are not raised by Aziz, he was welcome to come for the talks, she said putting the onus back on Pakistan.