Proposed talks between India and Pakistan appear to “be all but called off” after both sides refused to budge on the issue of Pakistan’s NSA Sartaj Aziz meeting senior Hurriyat leaders, the Pakistani media reported on Saturday.
The two countries have “set up a cliffhanger” ahead of the talks between their National Security Advisors (NSAs) on Monday after digging in their heels on the agenda for the meeting and Aziz’s plan to hold confabulations with the Hurriyat, the influential Dawn newspaper said in a front-page report.
The Express Tribune reported on its front page that the much-hyped meeting of the NSAs “seems to be all but called off” after both sides refused to shift from their positions.
With “both sides issuing statements to emphasise their positions and blame the other for the deadlock”, the events in the run-up to the meeting “were redolent of a strategy by both sides to compel the other to walk away from the meeting”, the Dawn reported.
Though there was no clear official announcement regarding the cancellation of the talks from either side, a statement issued by Pakistan’s Foreign Office late on Friday “suggested the meeting is unlikely to take place”, the Tribune said.
“This is the second time that India has chosen to go back on a decision mutually agreed upon between the two Prime Ministers, to engage in a comprehensive dialogue, by coming up with frivolous pretexts,” the statement had said.
The Dawn reported a final decision on whether the two sides will go ahead with the meeting is likely to be known when Aziz addresses a news conference on Saturday afternoon.
Pakistan’s civil and military leadership also decided on Friday not to accept India’s position the NSAs should discuss only terrorism-related issues, the Tribune quoted its sources as saying. A meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by army chief Gen Raheel Sharif also decided that the talks should include “all bilateral disputes”, including Kashmir.
The leaders decided that Pakistan should “adopt an aggressive approach with India on terrorism-related issues” so that it could help pave the way for talks on bilateral disputes, the report said.
In an editorial titled “India-Pakistan talks – need for maturity”, the Tribune suggested that bilateral dialogue will be meaningful only if it includes “players and stakeholders that are not acceptable to either side”.
“That is what talks such as this are about, the art of the possible and the creation of diplomatic space where none existed before, the islets of equanimity that are the outposts of a nascent peace process,” the editorial said.
“If ever there was a time to display maturity, it is now...An opportunity that neither side can afford to miss. Cool heads must prevail.”
Read:NSA talks between India, Pakistan hang in balance