Pakistan cancels meeting with India

Activists from India's right-wing Shiv Sena party burning an effigy of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz in a protest in New Delhi on Saturday. They were opposing security talks between India and Pakistan
Activists from India's right-wing Shiv Sena party burning an effigy of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz in a protest in New Delhi on Saturday. They were opposing security talks between India and Pakistan, which have since been called off.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Talks between top security advisers called off as India refuses to add Kashmir to agenda

Pakistan has called off a high-level meeting with India over a last-minute disagreement on the talks' agenda, raising fears of further volatility between the nuclear-armed neighbours along their common border.

Islamabad said late on Saturday it could not go ahead with talks between the national security advisers of both sides, accusing India of putting "preconditions'' on the agenda. India refused to add Kashmir, an area of dispute, to it.

Pakistan's National Security Adviser was to be in India on a two-day visit starting yesterday.

However, the visit was scuttled after Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Saturday that India would discuss only terrorism and opposed a planned meeting between Pakistan's National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz and Kashmiri separatists in Delhi, saying "third parties" could not be involved in the process.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif had appeared to achieve a rare breakthrough in the Russian town of Ufa last month, when they agreed to a meeting of their top security officials.

Ties between the two countries, which have gone to war thrice in the past, have remained tense over the last few months, with regular exchanges of fire along their border despite a 2003 ceasefire agreement.

A statement released after their meeting on the sidelines of the Brics summit had said the officials would discuss terrorism.

Analysts said any gains from that meeting appeared to have been negated by the latest developments.

Yesterday, tensions along the Line of Control, the de facto border, continued to simmer, with India saying three terrorists were killed and a soldier wounded following an exchange of fire along the border. Protests also broke out in Kashmir outside the house of separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who was among those scheduled to meet Mr Aziz.

As the United States expressed disappointment over the talks' collapse, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh indicated the door was still open for dialogue.

Mr Modi and Mr Sharif are scheduled to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York next month.

"We will continue to try for cordial relations with Pakistan," said Mr Singh yesterday. "It is up to them to decide. Why didn't Pakistan raise Kashmir in Ufa?"

Ties between the two countries, which have gone to war thrice in the past, have remained tense over the last few months, with regular exchanges of fire along their border despite a 2003 ceasefire agreement. India has continued to accuse Pakistan of doing little to stop cross-border terrorism and has sought action against Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba since its attack on Mumbai in 2008.

The two governments have come under fire in their respective countries over the aborted talks.

Pakistani newspaper Dawn said in an editorial that Mr Sharif needed to show stronger leadership.

"That terrorism was made central to the upcoming round of talks without any mention of the broader Kashmir issue was either an error on Mr Sharif's part or, at the very least, the government should have expected the domestic backlash and prepared for it," it said.

In India, the opposition Congress party accused the government of mismanaging the talks, saying "no opportunity should have been given to Pakistan to wiggle out of talks".

But analysts said developments in the past few days showed neither side really wanted a dialogue.

"Pakistan has bigger problems to sort out at home and India has more important priorities than to engage with Pakistan," said Professor Chintamani Mahapatra of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2015, with the headline 'Pakistan cancels meeting with India'. Print Edition | Subscribe