NEW DELHI: Baring fangs, trading accusations, hurling threats, India and Pakistan are preparing for the National Security Advisor level talks beginning Sunday, August 23. A series of tweets, followed by hardline statements by both Foreign Offices has still not ended in either pulling out of the scheduled dialogue. almost as if in this new battle of nerves each is waiting for the other to ‘lose.’

The Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad was directed by the government to let NSA Sartaj Aziz know that he was not welcome to meet the Hurriyat leaders. In Delhi the same was communicated to the meda in the afternoon by the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup in a series of official tweets stating, “India has advised Pakistan yesterday that it would not be appropriate for Mr Sartaz Aziz to meet with Hurriyat representatives in India.”

And again, “Such a meeting would not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Ufa understanding to jointly work to combat terrorism.”

Swarup also confirmed through a tweet, “We have also sought (confirmation) of our proposed agenda for the NSA level talks that was conveyed to the Pakistani side on 18 Aug 2015.” The agenda for the talks has also become a bone of contention between the two sides with New Delhi insisting that the focus should be on terrorism, and Islamabad maintaining that it would leave the agenda open but would definitely discuss Kashmir.

On Friday August 21, Pakistan responded to the directive to Aziz from India with a strong statement rejecting the “advice” and emphasising the status of Kashmir as “disputed.”

The statement reads:

“Responding to the "advice" of Government of India, conveyed by their High Commissioner that Mr. Sartaj Aziz may not meet the Hurriyat leaders during his forthcoming visit to India, the Foreign Secretary conveyed to the Indian High Commissioner that it would not be possible for Pakistan to accept this advice.

Kashmir is a disputed territory as per the UN Security Council resolutions which remain unimplemented. Pakistani leadership has always interacted with the Kashmir/Hurriyat leadership, during their visits to India. Pakistan sees no reason to depart from this established past practice. The Hurriyat leaders are true representatives of the Kashmiri people of the Indian occupied Kashmir. Pakistan regards them as genuine stakeholders in the efforts to find a lasting solution of the Kashmir Dispute.

Pakistan has proposed and conveyed to India a comprehensive agenda reflecting the broad understanding reached between the leaders in Ufa, that all outstanding issues, including Kashmir and other disputes, as well as, terrorism issues and other CBMs will be discussed between the two countries.

India's insistence to introduce conditionalities and restrict the agenda for the dialogue, demonstrates a lack of seriousness on India's part to meaningfully engage with Pakistan.

For its part, Pakistan remains willing to attend the NSAs meeting without any pre-conditions.

21 August 2015

India almost immediately responded with another statement issued as the response to a question to the spokesperson where it said that it had expected nothing better from Pakistan. The response reads:

“In response to a question on statement put out by Pakistan today on the NSA level talks, the Official Spokesperson stated:

''The statement by the Government of Pakistan today on the NSA level talks with India does not come as a surprise. There has been a pattern to Pakistan's actions after the Ufa Summit and today's position is a culmination of that approach.

At Ufa, the two Prime Ministers agreed on a meeting of the NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism as well as ensure peace and tranquility on the border. Instead, we saw a sharp increase in the unprovoked firings from the Pakistani side and some serious cross border terrorist incidents. The last one, at Udhampur, resulted in the capture alive of a Pakistani national, a matter that would have naturally come up in the NSA level talks on terrorism, to Pakistan's discomfort.

In so far as those talks are concerned, Pakistan took 22 days to respond to the Indian proposal to meet in New Delhi. It then proposed an agenda that was at complete variance with what the two Prime Ministers had agreed upon in Ufa. Together, these two actions indicated its reluctance to go forward with sincerity on the agreed process. Even more significantly, without confirming either the programme or the agenda, the Pakistani High Commissioner invited Hurriyat representatives to consult with the visiting NSA. This provocative action was completely in consonance with Pakistan's desire to evade its commitment at Ufa to engage in a substantive discussion on terrorism.

The Ufa understanding on the talks - read out jointly by the two Foreign Secretaries - was very clear: the NSAs were to meet to discuss all issues connected to terrorism. This was the only agenda set for them by the two Prime Ministers.

The insistence on meeting Hurriyat as a precondition is also a complete departure from the Ufa understanding. India has always held the position that there are only two stake holders in our relationship, not three.

The people of both countries can legitimately ask today what is the force that compels Pakistan to disregard the agreements reached by two elected leaders and sabotage their implementation.

India remains committed to discussing issues with Pakistan peacefully and bilaterally. In fact, we took the initiative to engage at Ufa. But, unilateral imposition of new conditions and distortion of the agreed agenda cannot be the basis for going forward. ''

However, in the last lines both have said that they would continue with the talks and remained committed to the scheduled discussion. However, the question being asked now by experts on both sides is what is the point of this exercise, more so as the hardening of postures is clearly not conducive to even a minimalist step forward. Bets are already being placed by journalists as to which government will withdraw first from the dialogue, that is being held at least till now, in the most acrimonious atmosphere till date. Earlier talks were always preceded by efforts by both governments to create at least the basic atmospherics for a civilised dialogue.