Following the last-minute scuttling of talks between the national security advisers of Pakistan and India, proposed meetings between senior military officials of the two countries are now unlikely to take place in the near future, The Express Tribune has learnt from senior Pakistani officials.
The separate meetings between Director General Military Operations (DGMOs) and heads of Pakistan Rangers and India’s Border Security Force (BSF) were part of the understanding reached between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in their meeting in the Russian city of Ufa last month.
New Delhi wanted the two meetings to take place before the NSA-level talks but Islamabad proposed the interaction between senior military officials in September. Islamabad had suggested September 6 for the meeting between the heads of Rangers and BSF. It would have been followed by the DGMOs’ meeting.
However, with the NSA talks called off due to differences over the agenda as well as Pakistan’s invitation to Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders, the meetings between DGMOs as well as heads of Rangers and BSF are uncertain, said a senior Pakistani official.
“In fact, the entire Ufa agreement has now become controversial,” the official added while requesting anonymity. He disclosed that the Ufa accord has become ‘irrelevant’ as a result of cancellation of the NSA talks.
Different interpretations of the Ufa joint statement had led to a blame game that eventually compelled Pakistan to call off the NSA talks just hours before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz was to travel to New Delhi.
While India was adamant that under the Ufa accord, the NSA meeting was restricted to terrorism-related issues, Pakistan insisted the Kashmir issue was very much part of the agenda.
In an interview with India’s CNN-IBN news channel, Aziz admitted that the Ufa agreement was interpreted differently by both the countries. He, however, insisted that Pakistan’s agenda of the NSA talks was in line with the Ufa joint statement.
When asked, Aziz said the DGMOs meeting would go ahead but he would not give the exact date for the senior military officials’ talks. These meetings were aimed at reducing rising tensions along the Line of Control and working boundary. Since the Ufa meeting, there have been at least close to 200 incidents of ceasefire violations reported by both sides along the LoC and working boundary. Both sides accused the other for hostilities.
The stalemate is likely to ratchet up tensions between the two neighbours, although Pakistan hoped the cancellation of talks would not further deteriorate ties. While prospects of resumption of talks seem remote at this stage, the official said both countries would now use ‘backchannel’ to sort out modalities before any future engagements.
Given the pressure by powerful Western countries, particularly the US, on both Pakistan and India, the two countries will still explore options for re-engagement, said another official. The upcoming UN General Assembly (UNGA) session may provide a platform to Islamabad and New Delhi to look into options for maintaining some kind of contact.
The official said Pakistan was also considering the option of going ‘aggressive’ on the Kashmir issue during the UNGA session where the prime minister will make the keynote address. “But it depends how things pan out in coming days,” said the official, adding if India continues sticking to its current stance, then Pakistan will be left with no other option but to raise the longstanding dispute at all international forums.
India, however, continues harping on to the old mantra of terrorism, further bedevilling relations with Pakistan instead of making efforts to miminise the damage done by the cancellation of the NSA talks. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary, Anurag Thakur, said on Saturday there will be no revival of cricketing relations with Pakistan if Islamabad harbours Dawood Ibrahim, India’s most-wanted man, and continues dialogue with Hurriyet leaders.
“Dawood in Karachi. National Security Agency (NSA) wants to meet separatists here. Are you really serious about peace and you expect we’ll play cricket with you?” Thakur said in a twitter message, according to the Press Trust of India.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2015.