Indo-Pak Thaw: NSA Level Mid-Jan Talks Keeps Hurriyat at Bay?



Foreign secretary S Jaishankar is likely to travel to Islamabad for a meeting with his counterpart Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary on January 15 in what marks an important and immediate takeaway from PM Narendra Modi’s Christmas date with his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

Official sources on both sides confirmed the two diplomats will together work out the modalities and schedule of the meetings under the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue, as announced in Islamabad on December 9.

It is significant that India agreed to send its foreign secretary to Islamabad even though it was the turn of his counterpart to visit Delhi. Jaishankar had visited Islamabad in March this year after another surprise and dramatic announcement by Modi about sending his top diplomat on a ‘SAARC yatra’.

According to sources, one reason why India agreed to the talks in Islamabad is to prevent the Hurriyat leaders from becoming a factor again before an important Indo-Pak engagement. Pakistan continues to maintain that there is no change in its policy on Hurriyat and that it still considers the separatists as true representatives of Kashmiris. Under these circumstances, it may not be possible for Chaudhary to come here and not meet Hurriyat leaders.

The understanding in both countries is that the Hurriyat factor may not turn into such an issue if the meeting takes place in Islamabad. Both countries do not want to take any chance with the meeting as it will set the tone for further engagement under the “Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue”. India and Pakistan have twice called off dialogue over Hurriyat since the Modi government came to power and another such setback could cripple the comprehensive dialogue even before it gets to move on.

To be sure, Modi’s Pakistan policy, and he did seem to have one given his invitation to Sharif for his swearing-in, went for a toss after he called off the then foreign secretary’s visit to Islamabad in August last year over Pakistan high commissioner’s meeting with Hurriyat leaders. India had then tried to justify the decision by saying that it was the first occasion when a meeting with Hurriyat was held at the Pakistan mission just ahead of a trip by an Indian leader or official to Islamabad.

It will again insist that no meeting takes place with the separatists at the Pakistan high commission just ahead of the meeting on January 15. That Pakistan was keen to have a meeting in Islamabad to avoid any awkwardness here suggests the two countries may have finally found a way to deal with an issue which has plagued relations for 18 months.

(Courtesy: Times of India)


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