Planned talks between the national security advisors (NSAs) of India and Pakistan fell through because New Delhi refused to allow an expanded agenda and set conditions for the meeting, the Pakistani media reported on Saturday.
News of the collapse of the talks after two days of acrimonious exchanges dominated the front pages of Pakistani dailies along with reports of the Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly being unseated by an election tribunal.
Most of the news reports sought to blame India for the cancellation of the talks that were to be held in New Delhi on Monday. India insisted that the meeting must focus on terrorism and Pakistani NSA Sartaj Aziz should not meet Hurriyat leaders while Pakistan said talks with conditions would not serve any purpose.
The report on the front page of the influential Dawn newspaper was headlined “NSAs’ talks cancelled over Indian conditions” while the headline in The News was “No talks with preconditions, Pakistan tells India”.
“Amid intense bickering, the government decided on Saturday to cancel the planned meeting of national security advisers with India, citing New Delhi’s refusal to allow an expanded agenda and a meeting with Kashmiri leaders,” the Dawn reported.
“The decision was announced after Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj virtually set a deadline for Pakistan to decide by midnight if it was ready to go ahead with the talks by agreeing not to meet the Kashmiri leaders and restricting the discussion to terrorism,” it added.
The News said in its front page report that Pakistan had responded to India’s "hilarious" directives by saying it would not attend the meeting of the NSAs on the basis of preconditions set by New Delhi.
The "war of words came to an end on Saturday night with peace and better bilateral relations emerging as the biggest loser", the report said. The "prospects for peace got crushed by a battle of egos", it added.
The Express Tribune, in its report, described the cancellation of the talks as "another blow to normalisation efforts" between the two countries and said "India’s intransigence" was to blame for the development.
The Nation daily reported that an "overbearing India (had) dashed hopes for peace in the region by virtually murdering planned talks with Pakistan by putting ‘unacceptable’ conditions, though none of the two sides officially declared the death of dialogue".
In an editorial titled "India-Pakistan spectacle", the Dawn said there had rarely been "as much farce and confusion surrounding the now cancelled talks" even by the "tortured standards" of bilateral relations.
"While it was obvious that neither side wanted to be seen to officially call off talks, it was also patently clear that neither side was willing to do much to rescue them in Delhi," the editorial said. It contended that Prime Minister Narendra Modi "does not really want dialogue with Pakistan, but does not want to be seen rejecting talks outright in front of the international community".
It said the Pakistan government had made "some serious errors", including the understanding reached in Ufa without mentioning the Kashmir issue and the composite dialogue.
"Perhaps what is truly discouraging is the trend that has become apparent in the Sharif-Modi era. The prime ministers themselves mostly have encouraging words about the bilateral relationship, but they allow their underlings to damage goodwill and trust," the editorial said.
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