NEW DELHI: Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz’s remarks that Kashmir remains on the agenda and that “more evidence” is needed on the Mumbai attack will not affect India’s engagement with that country after they agreed to the revival of the stalled dialogue process.
Giving this assessment, sources said today that the Indian Government will go by the spirit of the joint statement that laid out a roadmap for restarting the dialogue process after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in the Russian city of Ufa last Friday.
Downplaying the statement by Aziz, who is Pakistan Prime Minister’s Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs, the sources said he did not talk about anything which affected “actionable propositions” agreed upon during Modi-Sharif talks.
Observing that Aziz’s comments did not reflect a U-turn by Pakistan after the Ufa talks, the sources said it would be unfair to make such judgements when the process for engagement agreed to between the two premiers including talks between National Security Advisers of the two countries is yet to start.
Describing the joint statement issued after Modi-Sharif talks on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit as a “considered, honest, accurate and reasonable summary of the substance” of the talks, the sources said for India what Islamabad tells it is important and not what they convey to the domestic audience.
They said India was looking forward to implementation of the decisions agreed upon at the meeting and added that it was Modi’s idea to have a joint media interaction by Foreign Secretaries of both the countries after the talks.
Three days after Ufa talks, Aziz yesterday held a press conference in Islamabad in which he asked for “more evidence and information” from India on the Mumbai attack case and asserted that talks cannot take place without Kashmir being on the agenda in what was seen as a turnaround by Pakistan.
The sources said Aziz had made the statement ostensibly for the domestic audience and called it a “kind of a mix and match exercise” as the comments included known Pakistani positions along with what he claimed to have been figured at the talks between the two Prime Ministers.
“The fact that he (Aziz) is offering additional comments obviously speaks of a certain situation there,” the sources said, adding no one should “pre-judge” possible outcome of a process which is yet to start.
The sources said Modi had raised the Mumbai attack trial and as it believed Pakistan has enough evidence to punish mastermind of the strike and LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.
The government’s position is that two specific formats for talks — one at NSA level and the other at DGMO level– were agreed upon and Aziz did not say anything denouncing what has been decided in Ufa.
“Sartaj Aziz did not say I will not come to New Delhi to discuss terrorism with Doval as we agreed,” the sources said, adding he is making comments from his perspective considering the domestic situation.
“They (Pakistan) did not do the first turn, how can they make a U-turn. Do not jump the gun,” the sources said, adding Aziz’s comments may be part of “management exercise” for domestic audience.
On whether Kashmir was discussed at the Modi-Sharif meeting, the sources indicated that it did come up.
Asked about Pakistan’s stand that the voice sample of Lakhvi is not likely to be provided to India as envisaged in the joint statement, the sources indicated it may figure during talks between NSAs of the two countries.
They said trial of Lakhvi was raised forcefully and it was used as a metaphor indicating that India was serious about action against those responsible for plotting attacks in India including Hafiz Saeed.
Amplifying the joint statement, they said it was not a statement where “you lay out all your hundred positions and they lay out their positions and then you trade” and added that Foreign Secretaries of both the countries drafted the joint statement together.
The Indian Foreign Secretary showed the draft to Modi while the Pakistani side is also believed to have shown it to Sharif before issuing it to the media
Queried about criticism in Pakistan over Modi not stepping forward to receive Sharif at the meeting hall in Ufa, the sources said there was “no message” and called the observations “petty” and “ridiculous”.
They said as India sought the meeting, Modi was standing to receive Sharif and if the Pakistani Prime Minister had sought the meeting, then he would have waited for Modi. It was India which sought meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the sources said.
On whether India’s expectations from the meeting were met, they said both sides came to it with positive intent and it took place in a very “congenial” atmosphere.
While the joint statement issued after the Sharif-Modi talks said the two sides will find ways and means to expedite the Mumbai trial, Aziz yesterday had indicated that it will take some time, putting the onus on India.
The sources said Aziz in his comments yesterday repeated Pakistan’s long standing position on certain issues but that does not mean it was discussed in Ufa.
Asked whether India was expecting a positive outcome from NSA-level talks, the sources said failure in achieving good outcome in the past does not mean the upcoming talks will be without any result.
On Pakistan High Commission’s invite to Kashmiri separatists for a Eid-Milan event on 21st July, the sources indicated that it should not be compared to invite by the envoy to them ahead of the Foreign Secretary level talks in August last year.
India had called off talks between Foreign Secretaries of the two countries, strongly objecting to consultations Basit had with the Kashmiri separatist leaders. (PTI)
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