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Let Pak invite Hurriyat. India will not call off talks

Suhas Munshi | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:47 IST

Keep talking

  • Pakistan has invited Kashmiri separatists to meet its NSA Sartaj Aziz
  • Aziz will be in India next week to meet Ajit Doval. Unlike last year, India will not call off the talks

Why talk

  • The NSA-level talks are being held on India\'s terms, to discuss terror, border. India has the upper hand with a captured terrorist from Pakistan
  • Pak may demand putting Kashmir back on the agenda in any talks that are held later

The meeting between the national security advisors of India and Pakistan scheduled for next week seems to be on solid grounds despite military and political provocations from across the border.

Pakistan has invited a host of separatist leaders from Kashmir to meet Sartaj Aziz, its NSA, in New Delhi on 23 August.

Aziz will come to talk with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on the same day and the next.

Last year, India had cancelled a meeting between the foreign secretaries of the two countries because the Pakistani High Commissioner had held consultations with separatists before the talks.

This year, however, it is unlikely to do so, a senior government officer said, citing how India has reacted to repeated provocations from the neighbour.

"There is no deviation from India's policy towards Pakistan," the officer said. "The Hurriyat did meet the Pakistan High Commissioner on Eid, to which the government didn't react negatively."

"Despite shelling from Pakistan being at an all-time high - on levels seen in 1999 - the talks are on."

Pakistan's invitation to Hurriyat hasn't surprised the government. "We expect the Pakistanis to raise the Samjhauta Express case, Balochistan etc to provoke us when they arrive in India," the officer said.

"But we've got the upper hand right now, especially when a Pakistani citizen who came to wage war against India is in our custody."

What can India do

India has three options to deal with provocation from Pakistan. First, to make peace with the fact that there is nothing new about Pakistan talking to the Hurriyat. The Opposition will perhaps not miss an opportunity to paint the BJP-led government as a weak one, but this move will ensure that the talks are not derailed.

The second choice is to call off the talks and gain some political points. But that is sure to put India under international pressure.

Despite shelling from Pakistan being at an all-time high - on levels seen in 1999 - the talks are on

Also, since the these talks are being held on India's terms - where only terrorism and border disputes are to be discussed - it might be an opportunity wasted as Pakistan will probably insist on bringing Kashmir back on to the table whenever talks resume.

But the option that the government might be most serious about is to detain the separatist leaders before Aziz lands in India. That would scuttle their meeting with the Pak NSA while keeping the talks intact. However, this will draw severe criticism on for violating human rights.

"If I were advising the government right now, I would recommend detaining the separatists," said Sushant Sareen, senior fellow at Vivekananda International Foundation and a close Pakistan observer.

"We have to keep Pakistan pinned down the pitch of our choice - terrorism. It is a golden opportunity and we must ensure that talks happen."

What about Hurriyat

Kashmir's separatist leaders, meanwhile, are preparing to meet Aziz. Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq confirmed that they have received the invitation. "All of us have decided to be present at the reception. Hurriyat welcome the invitation and the talks between the two NSAs," he said.

"There has been tensions on both sides of the border and we strongly feel that talks should go on, while making Kashmiris a part of it. There is no other solution."

First published: 19 August 2015, 11:56 IST
Suhas Munshi @suhasmunshi

He hasn't been to journalism school, as evident by his refusal to end articles with 'ENDS' or 'EOM'. Principal correspondent at Catch, Suhas studied engineering and wrote code for a living before moving to writing mystery-shrouded-pall-of-gloom crime stories. On being accepted as an intern at Livemint in 2010, he etched PRESS onto his scooter. Some more bylines followed in Hindustan Times, Times of India and Mail Today.