Pakistan will not have a “conditional” meeting with India on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the neighbouring country’s national security adviser told HT, underscoring a wide gap and mutual distrust between the two sides.
“India only wants to talk terror and we want a discussion on all issues including Kashmir,” Sartaj Aziz said in an exclusive phone interview from Islamabad, days ahead of prime ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif attending the key UN event this month.
Asked if a meeting between the two leaders was likely, Aziz said, “Our position is very clear. India called off the NSA-level dialogue last month and the request for any meeting must come from you. India has to take the initiative.”
The August 24 talks between Aziz and his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, were cancelled after Pakistani high commissioner Abdul Basit invited Kashmiri separatists to a tea reception.
This was the second time the India-Pakistan dialogue process was derailed since Sharif attended Modi’s swearing-in-ceremony in May 2014. India called off foreign secretary-level talks in August last year after Basit met Hurriyat Conference leaders with Pakistan insisting that the separatists were “the true representatives of the Kashmiris”.
Modi and Sharif had a breakthrough meeting in the Russian city of Ufa three months ago when they decided on a way forward, but differing interpretations of the joint statement soon led to the NSA-level talks being cancelled.
While Pakistan insists the two prime ministers agreed to discuss all outstanding issues, India maintains that the joint statement clearly outlined that the NSAs were to only take up matters related to terrorism.
Both Modi and Sharif are likely to be staying at the same hotel in New York and officials do not rule out a “chance meeting” between them. However, Aziz said, “Let me make it clear that we will continue to meet the Hurriyat. Even people in India are questioning the government on its rigid stand of us not meeting the separatists.”
India detained several separatist leaders to prevent them from meeting Aziz ahead of the last month’s cancelled talks, signalling its determination to not allow them to be a party to the bilateral engagement between the two nations.
Aziz also confirmed that Islamabad had not received any request from New Delhi for a meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA. “Nothing so far,” he told HT. “If there is a request, our stand is clear. We want a discussion on all outstanding issues including Kashmir.”