Islamabad is expected to push for foreign secretary level talks in the upcoming meeting of the national security advisers (NSA) of Pakistan and India on August 23.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held a brainstorming session with his core committee on Monday to mull over what to keep on the agenda of the NSA talks and what to leave for the foreign secretary level meeting.
The two-hour session was also attended by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, PM’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and PM’s Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi.
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Before the security adviser’s departure to India, another meeting is expected to be convened with the military leadership to finalise the agenda of the NSA talks.
A source said the premier’s meeting also discussed the Afghanistan situation after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s presser against Pakistan.
“Moreover, Nisar and Dar briefed PM Nawaz on security matters, especially in the wake of Punjab Home Minister Col (retd) Shuja Khanzada’s murder on Sunday, and domestic political challenges, including MQM lawmakers’ resignation from the assemblies and the ongoing talks between the JUI-F and MQM leadership on the issue.”
Determining the agenda
Aziz will visit New Delhi on August 23 for dialogue with his counterpart Ajit Doval. India had proposed August 23-24 for the meeting in line with an agreement between Premier Nawaz and his counterpart Narendra Modi in Russia last month.
The attack on a police station in Gurdaspur, located in the Indian state of Punjab, on July 27 delayed the immediate resumption of talks.
A source said the premier’s meeting mulled over if Aziz should bring up head-on the issue of the bail of the main accused in the 2007 Samjhota Express bombing as well as of India’s alleged involvement in the Balochistan insurgency during his meeting with Doval.
“The federal government will opt for one of the two possibilities: either Aziz will bring up head-on the issues of Samjhota Express, Balochistan, ceasefire violations at the LoC, firing at the Working Boundary and other terrorism-related issues or he will focus mainly on how to resume the talks at the foreign secretary level and leave the issues for that meeting.”
Regarding trade issues, the source said Dar believed that if Pakistan is unable to grant MFN status to India, then it should at least display some softness on trade issues with its neighbour. “The meeting agreed that trade issues should be discussed at the foreign secretary level.”
As for India’s concerns, Pakistan believes that Doval would bring up the slow pace of the 2008 Mumbai attacks trial and the bail of Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the suspected mastermind of the attacks. India might also bring up the Gurdaspur police station attack.
Sources said New Delhi’s main focus would be on punishing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks and Pakistan would stress on handing over sufficient evidences.
About the outcome of the NSA talks, Islamabad believes that the diplomatic environment is not too charged, so expectation of any major news is low.
Premier Nawaz held a separate meeting with Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, National Party chief Mir Hasil Bizenjo and SAFRON Minister Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch to discuss the unrest in the province.
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The meeting also discussed the ongoing talks with Baloch insurgents as well as Sanaullah Zehri’s recent meetings with the Khan of Kalat in London.
According to the PM House, the meeting also reviewed progress on development projects and the ‘Pur Amn (Peaceful) Balochistan’ programme, which was approved and launched during the premier’s previous visit to Quetta.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2015.