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August 18, 2016

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India agrees to foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan

India agrees to foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan

New Delhi wants cross-border terrorism to be focus of talks; Pakistan for finding solution to Kashmir issue

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided on Wednesday to accept Pakistan’s invitation and agreed to send his Foreign Secretary Subramanhian Jaishankar for a meeting with his counterpart Aizaz Chaudhry in Islamabad, senior officials in New Delhi and the All India Radio claimed.

India’s response came two days after Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry handed over a formal invitation to India’s high commissioner, inviting his counterpart for talks.

Aizaz Chaudhry had in his letter “highlighted the international obligations of Pakistan and India with regards to resolving the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions”.

However, till now there is no official word from the Modi government and hence it’s all quiet at Pakistan’s Foreign Office as well.

India has unofficially told its media, “Since aspects related to cross-border terrorism are central to the current situation in J&K (Jammu and Kashmir), we have proposed that discussions between the foreign secretaries be focused on them. We have also conveyed that GOI (Government of India) rejects in their entirety the self-serving allegations regarding the situation in J&K, which is an integral part of India where Pakistan has no locus standi”.

When the spokesman at the Foreign Office was asked by The News about Indian media reports and contents of the letter handed over to it, he responded, “Then our stand remains that we do not comment on media reports (from New Delhi).”

Since Wednesday evening the Indian media has been flooded by reports from “sources” about the acceptance of the invitation as its officialdom waits to hear a response from Pakistan’s Foreign Office.

India could also be testing the waters in Islamabad to see if the Nawaz Sharif government was ready to sit around the table to focus mainly on “cross-border terrorism” and not the situation inside the Valley as Pakistan had proposed.

The Indian media reports claim that the response was handed over to the Pakistan Foreign Office in a letter by Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad Gautam Bambawale, which the Foreign Office admits to. However, officials at the Foreign Office say they are under no obligation and in no great hurry to make public or respond to this particular letter.

So far there is no official statement from New Delhi about the contents of the letter handed over by Bambawale. The closest to officialdom is a tweet by All India Radio [email protected] , which said, “# India accepts # Pakistan’s invitation for foreign secretary level talks between two countries.”

No dates have yet been made public in what is now clearly being seen as the ‘success’ of backdoor diplomacy between the two countries with a friendly push from important and influential world capitals. When the spokesman at theForeign Office was asked about the role of backdoor diplomacy, he did not reject the notion altogether but said, “We do not comment on media reports”.

New Delhi has no-one but itself to blame for raising the pitch and height of rhetoric to a level of no return, so that now it finds it difficult to sell to its domestic audience that it is willing to hold a meeting in Islamabad. For India it is also not easy to explain to its home audience how it was going to send its senior most diplomat to “hell”, as its Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar described Pakistan on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Secretary S Jainshankar had a long on the record meeting with foreign correspondents based in New Delhi and he did not once mention India’s acceptance or otherwise of Pakistan’s invite.

Rather he commented, “Problem with Pakistan is centrality of issue of terrorism. Made reach out, but terror attacks make restarting dialogue difficult .They don't buy in to SAARC issues. Looking at the neighbourhood, we clearly face a unique challenge in respect to one country which is Pakistan.”

 

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