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In an apparent attempt to show the government’s displeasure over the proposed meeting between separatist Hurriyat Conference leaders and Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz on August 23, the police in Srinagar placed Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Mallik, and Moulvi Abbas Ansari under house arrest and imposed more restrictions on Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Thursday.
However, just a few hours later, the government decided to lift the restrictions on all but Mr. Geelani, who has been under house arrest since April, leading to severe criticism of the government’s “contradictory actions”.
The police action marked another day of high drama with tensions between India and Pakistan rising ahead of talks between National Security Advisers Ajit Doval and Sartaj Aziz. Efforts of Indian and Pakistani officials to set the ground rules for the talks have received a setback.
Key issues proposed by India and Pakistan at the NSA-level talks
|List of India’s “most wanted” in Pakistan and training camps||Allegations of Indian involvement in Balochistan|
|Trial and voice samples of Mumbai 26/11 accused||Alleged Indian funding of terror groups|
|Terror attacks in J&K and Punjab and LoC infiltration||Concerns over Samjhauta Express blasts trial|
|Arrest of fishermen||Alleged ceasefire violations by India at LoC|
Mr. Aziz’s programme in Delhi is far from clear even 72 hours before his arrival.
Sources in Delhi and Islamabad confirmed to The Hindu that both sides had rejected the letters exchanged last week on the proposed agenda for the talks.
“They gave us a draft agenda and we gave them a draft agenda, but we just could not agree on the points. So we have decided to scrap it and go ahead with the meetings without an agenda,” a senior Pakistani official said.
In Srinagar, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq told presspersons they had been given no reason for the police action. “There seems to be some confusion. If they are trying to stop us, that is a very negative way of thinking by the government as we would be coming to Delhi to support the India-Pakistan talks process,” he said.
State, Centre differ
Adding to the confusion were differences between the Union and the State governments over who had ordered the detention of the leaders.
To a question at a press conference on Thursday, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the State government was responsible.
“I will not comment on policing actions, but I will say that the Jammu and Kashmir government is free to take action,” Mr. Prasad said.
Mehboob Beg, spokesperson of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, denied that the State government had ordered the detentions, and said Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, who was in Uri, “firmly put his foot down” and ordered their release.
In Islamabad, the Foreign Office issued a statement saying that meetings between the separatist leaders and Pakistani dignitaries had been a “long-standing practice”.
No space for third party, says official
The house arrest of Hurriyat leaders in Srinagar ahead of National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz’s visit to Delhi on Aug. 23 led to a blame game between the Central and State governments, but Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit said, “As far as we know, the leaders will be meeting Mr. Aziz in Delhi. It wouldn’t be correct to speculate on a hypothetical situation until the confusion clears.”
Diplomatic sources confirmed that Mr. Aziz will arrive in Delhi only on August 23rd evening, a day later than originally planned. He will then attend the reception organised by the Pakistani High Commission, which would be attended by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Yasin Malik will send representatives to the reception, while the spokesperson of Mr. Geelani’s section of the Hurriyat Ayaz Akbar told The Hindu that he would meet Mr. Aziz on Monday, possibly after Mr. Aziz’s talks with Mr. Doval.
However, government sources said any meeting between the Hurriyat and Mr. Aziz was unacceptable if it sought to give the impression that the separatists were being consulted. “There is no space for a third party in talks between India and Pakistan, especially given these talks will only focus on terror,” a senior official told The Hindu.
Meanwhile, officials in New Delhi confirmed there was no agenda for the NSAs’ talks, adding that it was Pakistan’s “attempt to expand the agenda beyond Ufa” that caused the collapse of pre-talk talks.
Significantly, it was not Kashmir that caused the diplomatic divergence between the foreign offices, but Pakistan’s insistence on discussing the future of bilateral talks and setting up the next round of Foreign Secretary-level talks that made India reject it.
“The Ufa statement was very clear in what it mandated, and that is the NSA talks on terror, including 26/11 voice samples, and some discussions on DGMO meetings, fishermen and religious tourism,” an Indian official told The Hindu.
However, Pakistani officials point to the phrase in the Ufa statement that said they were “prepared to discuss all outstanding issues” to ask why a structure to discuss the outstanding issues could not be a part of the draft. Sources said despite several attempts by Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan TCA Raghavan and Mr. Basit between August 14 and August 18, the two sides had to abandon the idea of the draft agenda document, which is considered a preliminary diplomatic document.
On August 19, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with his Cabinet colleagues as well as Pakistani Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar to discuss Mr. Aziz’s brief for the talks. Sources said they will include Pakistan’s allegations of Indian involvement in the insurgency in Balochistan and in terror attacks in other parts of Pakistan.
Mr. Aziz will also raise the bail for Aseemanand, the main accused in the Samjhauta Express blast in which 68 people, mostly Pakistanis, were killed. Meanwhile, the MHA is in the process of preparing several dossiers for Mr. Doval to talk about, which would include a list of India’s most wanted, including Dawood Ibrahim and his latest coordinates, and a list of terror-training camps with locations in Pakistan.
Sources said Mr. Doval is also keen to discuss a mechanism to deal with fishermen’s arrests, which could be handled outside of the courts, and address rising LoC ceasefire violations with a meeting of DGMOs at the earliest. Without an official agenda, however, officials say the talks, which are due to be held on Monday, could be even more unpredictable than they are already expected to be.
From: The Hindu