NEW DELHI -- The much-awaited talks between India and Pakistan scheduled for tomorrow will be called off unless Pakistan agrees to only discuss terrorism and border skirmishes, said India's external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday. She was speaking at a press conference called specifically hours before the Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is scheduled to meet Sartaj Aziz, his Pakistani counterpart.
"If Pakistan doesn't commit to speaking only on terror, as decided by both countries at Ufa, the talks will be cancelled," said Swaraj repeatedly on Saturday. "We are still hopeful the talks will happen, and if they agree, we can go forward."
The Indian government on Saturday strongly criticised their Pakistani counterparts, alleging that they were backtracking on all promises they had made at Ufa, when the Prime Ministers of the two countries had met at the sidelines of the SCO summit in Russia.
Swaraj said that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had never mentioned the Kashmir issue, or the 'composite dialogue' (now called 'resumed dialogue'), which refers to all outstanding issues between the two countries. They had simply agreed to discuss counterterrorism and border control measures, she said.
"The operative part of the decision in Ufa was crystal clear," said Swaraj in Hindi to reporters here. "The two PMs decided to delink terror and talks, and it was decided that there would be one conversation on terrorism and another on border control. This was all written down and signed by both sides, so we have proof of this."
Excerpt from joint statement after Ufa agreement:
"1. A meeting in New Delhi between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.
2. Early meetings of DG BSF and DG Pakistan Rangers followed by that of DGMOs."
Swaraj said that while the Indian government was ready to discuss all outstanding issues, including the Kashmir dispute, the intent of tomorrow's meeting was only to talk about terror. "We keep saying terror and talks cant happen together and productive dialogue can happen only in an atmosphere free from terror and violence," she said. "What Sartajji is talking about, all outstanding issues including J&K, we are prepared for that, it's in preamble."
Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif (L) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) meet during Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Ufa on July 10, 2015.
Earlier on Saturday, Aziz had said that he was happy to go ahead with the talks as long as there were no "pre-conditions", and that the Kashmir issue would have to be central to the conversation between the two NSAs.
“The K word is very much in the statement because we agreed to discuss all outstanding issues and everyone knows what is the most important outstanding issue...Kashmir is indirectly there in the statement,” he said at a news briefing at the Foreign Office in Islamabad.
Officials of both countries have alleged that the other was backtracking on the Ufa agreement. On Saturday, Swaraj said that the Pakistan Prime Minister never wanted the NSA talks to happen in the first place, as he had received a lot of pushback from his country even before he returned from Ufa.
"He decided to do something that will ensure NSA level talks doesn't happen," said Swaraj.
Swaraj alleged that the Pakistani leadership had crumbled at the face of increasing pressure on them to hold off talks with India. "The Indian government can withstand pressure," she said. "But the Pakistani leadership hasn't been able to deal with the pressure since they returned from Ufa to Pakistan."
Even as it seems unlikely that the standoff between the two countries would be resolved before the scheduled talks tomorrow, Swaraj said these were "potholes" along the long and difficult journey of India-Pakistan relations.
"India and Pakistan's relationship can be seen as a road journey with lots of potholes, punctured tyres, etc," she said in a rare light-hearted moment in what has been a bitter war of words between the two country representatives. "But we keep fixing these and keep moving forward. When will this be resolved completely is not something I can answer. But we have picked up talks where we left them off many times after intense periods of distrust."
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