NEW DELHI: Congress today hit out at the government, suggesting that it had mishandled the issue of NSA talks and lost yet another opportunity to expose Pakistan by providing it an "escape route".
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad criticised the government for not finalising the agenda for the NSA talks much ahead of the date of the meeting, saying it provided Pakistan an excuse to wriggle out.
It was yet another opportunity lost to expose Pakistan's support in fomenting trouble in Jammu and Kashmir, he told reporters here after a tour of his home state.
"We sent a letter, they (Pakistan) sent a letter. We proposed a date, they delayed their reply. Diplomacy is not done like this," the Congress leader said.
"Sending agenda and thinking it was agreed is a stupid idea. There is a difference between sending and agreeing upon. India should have used back channel diplomacy or sent an officer to Pakistan or discussed the agenda with Pakistan High Commission here," he said.
He was responding to a statement made by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who had said that India had proposed dates for the talks and agenda was sent by Pakistan very late.
"By not pre-fixing the agenda before the due date of meeting, our government has given free passage and escape route to Pakistan and his NSA (Sartaj Aziz) who also wanted an excuse to cancel the meeting since they did not want to be exposed internationally about their nefarious designs by supporting the militancy in Kashmir," said Azad, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
He said if the government is to be believed, then talks on terror was well-timed and well-conceived.
"If that be so, why didn't government directly or through back channel diplomacy made it clear to Pakistan government that the agenda under discussion will be terror related only and this could have been and should have been made clear much before date of meeting between two NSAs.
"Why did government leave it open to firm up the agenda item under discussion. Isn't it a total failure of the government to leave it open till 24 hours meeting was to take place and then run here and there to firm up the agenda," he said and accused the government of not doing its home work properly.
This is an opportunity lost as this was the "best time to pin down Pakistan and their NSA by discussing terror related issue since India has mountain of evidence that terrorism was aided and abetted by Pakistan, not in term of message or intercepts, but also in terms of live human being who was caught in Udhampur (Mohammed Naved Yakub).
Taking a dig at Hurriyat Conference, an amalgam of Kashmiri separatists, Azad said "unfortunately, they are knocking at the wrong door. They want to be heard by the government via Pakistan leadership which is totally unacceptable."
He said both Hurriyat as well as Pakistan were riding wrong horses.
Government, irrespective of which political party is in power, will definitely try and accommodate Hurriyat's viewpoint within the Constitution of India but "if Hurriyat Conference thinks that they will push government to toe their line through Pakistan authorities, they are simply wasting their time and energy", he said.
Similarly, Pakistan government is also riding a wrong horse. "They are trying to have a composite dialogue and their wanting to discuss outstanding issues with government by involving and talking to separatists is totally non-political and unjustified approach.
"They have to settle all outstanding issues with the federal government of India and not with separatists," Azad said.